Ah, Grammys. Let’s kvetch!
The morning after any big awards show is completed with a bunch of cry-baby whiners, armchair critics and cultural snipers saying how terrible things were and how things should be altered to make things more to their liking…so let’s get to it.
Or rather, let’s jump over the broadcast as quickly as we can because it makes little sense to parse what when on. Lots of segments stuck the landing while others fell with a hollow, boneless thud. Which worked and didn’t work depends completely on the person doing the debating. I have heard from plenty of people who thought the Lady Gaga tribute to David Bowie was fitting, a high point of the show. Others thought it was just a hair better than the Sonny and Cher Variety Hour from the 1970s. Lots of speculation has commenced about Adele’s perplexing performance, and why she sounded so poor while doing it. A bad night? Some bad nerves? Or does she require the narrative of always being a hair’s breadth away from retirement, just to make whatever comes next seem more triumphal? Lots of discussions back and forth among the viewership.
What seems to be the general consensus is that few people seemed to want to watch the telecast. Many people did, but the Facebook feeds were generally of an obligatory nature (aside from the professional writers who, by their chosen field, were actually obligated to watch). There was an inordinate amount of hate-watching going on. Why is that?
A good part of it is because so many of the artists right now inspire fandom without the fanaticism that is the root of being a “fan.” It’s even in the word, for crying our loud…but the following seems to do so to witness, as my Irish kin might put it, “the tossing of the shade.” In this crowd, no one is really a fan of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, or Nikki Minaj but they love it when the three scrap. (Different broadcast, I know. Same mindset though.) They wait for Kanye to do something to undermine someone else on the broadcast. They wait for Justin Bieber to do something jerky, and it won’t take long. Viewers have signed on because they seem to be in waiting for the wheels to fall off and for all the celebrities to plummet into the chasm. This is certainly not a concert they would have paid money to go see.
My thought on this is that we are now far too conscious of the little man behind the curtain, pulling the levers and switches. The Wizard is pretty close to fraudulent, and the Grammy Award really is an honor based upon how you enriched the music industry versus whether you have left behind something of lasting value for future generations. This is, in and of itself, not shocking. All awards are a “thank you” for the financial continuance of the enterprise. It is just that the Grammys are far more naked about this than, say, the Oscars which would like you to remember the artistic achievement of the winning film of the year about an actor pouring their guts out in a role about their character’s mortal illness.
A lot of this is due to positioning. I have always found the timing of what qualifies for a Grammy weird and disconnected. 2016’s Album of the Year went to Taylor Swift’s 1989, which came out in October 2014. There were plenty of records that actually came out in 2015 that rivaled — even toppled — Swift’s for creative endeavor, but that’s not how it works. Per capita, Adele’s 25 sold better in 2015, but I suppose that qualifies it for Album of the Year in 2017, and oh, this is why public schools reiterate the importance of algebra.
As the practice of releasing music becomes more and more streamlined, and more and more comes out, the very narrow class of “cool kids” are still the ones that end up on the big show. You can probably program next year’s broadcast strictly by who was on this year, whether they deserved it or not, and not be too far off in that prediction. How does that possibly bode accurately for what really comes out during the year being awarded?
It doesn’t. The Grammy mechanism is arbitrary and it shamelessly revels in how cock-eyed it is. The telecast began with a look back on the entertainment value of previous broadcasts. Who among us intends to keep the DVR recording of last night’s show? Was there anything so indelible that it demands that level of preservation and repeat viewing? Or was it just an interesting way to kill an evening and a bowl of popcorn?