Finally, a moment or two to scribble something of a border-line intelligent nature - providing, of course, that the venerable Blogger feels like cooperating today...
Dan Nailen writes the "Culture Vulture" column for the Salt Lake Tribune. I enjoy his stuff. It's generally wide-ranging, and not usually down the beaten path that is so often flogged to death in the rest of our print and online media.
A couple of weeks ago, he wrote that the Grammy Awards was a show (and award) that doesn't really matter any more. I generally don't agree.
I have a bit of a unique experience there. I was admitted to the Association of Recording Arts and Sciences about 10 years ago as a recording engineer. You have to apply and qualify under a certain set of criteria. For recording engineers, you had to show credits on at least 5 national record label releases. There are a couple of other small things, but that was the main thing to the application. Upon admittance, you are entitled to vote for the Grammy Awards nominees.
Every year, the Association contemplates the changes within the music industry by deciding whether to adjust categories, add award categories, discontinue others, etc.
When I was admitted, the boom in electronic production popularized by the then-booming rap music category forced the Association to add several new categories for this genre of music.
As a member of the Association, you are entitled to vote in the general music awards categories, like Best Album, Best New Artist, etc., along with the awards within your specific speciality - for me that specialty includes things like Best Producer, Best Engineer, Best Original Movie Score, etc. Most of those awards don't make it to the 3 hour broadcast. Like the Academy Awards for actors, the Grammys are the ones awarded by industry peers.
Nailen notes that he has listened to 160 albums throughout the year that are better than Christina Aguilera, for example. I would generally echo that thought. And here is what has happened to the Association of the last 10 or so years: with so many rap/urban/hiphop categories now represented in the cadre of awards, and with so many people now admitted to the Association from that genre, you are getting a cascade of votes for people, voted to win because of that preponderance of voters who skew in that direction.
The Grammy awards show now boasts about 50% of the time dedicated to this general genre as well, leaving out many who would have been there before the addition of this general genre.
The other problem is this - the entire entertainment industry has moved "pop" music toward this genre as well, as that is what our kids are listening to as well. This leaves musically talented acts to be relegated to the ranks of things like "stadium rock", or other "sidelined" categories.
Which leads one to ask the question, 20 years from now, how will this decade be labeled? The 70's is decidedly labeled as "disco", then we move from there to "rock", then "new wave" and "punk", then back to some "pop rock", then "rap", then "hiphop", and now "urban". Some call this New R&B, Soul, or something similar. I don't.
My headache here is that the sheer talent, or musicianship, is sorely lacking, both from a production standpoint, and from a composition, creative, and performance standpoint. 80% of the music on the popular radio stations, and consequently, on the awards show, can be "produced" in my basement, or anyone else's for that matter.
How many mainstream musicians can you name right now, who are excellent musicians - who play an instrument as part of their musical career? John Mayer comes to mind - he rocks a gnarly guitar. There are others as well - but by and large, you have a preponderance of people who hold their mike at the neck, their baggy crushed velour sweat suit at the crotch, and yell at me from the stage, using language that would make Hustler readers blush. Is this musicianship?
The thing about the Grammys is that these are the very people who are also voting for the winners in many categories. So I hope you are ready for more of the same in coming years.
Does this cheapen the Grammys then? I don't think so, because these awards are given out by the peers, and winners in all categories are rewarded recognition by the people who are familiar with their work, and who are showing respect for superior work. The awards show you see is a result of what the producers of the show think the general public wants to hear and see. It's not really indicative of the scope of the awards.
The Grammys matter because there are still engineers, producers, string quartets, mandolin players, vocalists, ethnic acts, who are honored to be recognized by people who have actually heard, and respect the performances that have been memorialized in recorded product.
I have more in a coming post....