For years, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has attempted to convince a music-loving public largely indifferent to the academy’s existence that its annual awards show does for music what the Oscars do each year for film and filmmakers.
The Grammys, which air Sunday night, has as much to do with promoting groundbreaking music as the “Real Housewives” franchise has to do with promoting austerity and basic human decency.
While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has taken seriously its duty to recognize legitimate achievement in film, its musical counterpart has largely shirked such a responsibility to music, spending much of the past 50 years appearing, at times, laughably out of touch and mired in the past.
One need only remember Jethro Tull’s 1988 win for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance over, among other bands, Metallica for proof of how historically bad the Grammys have been at recognizing and rewarding groundbreaking new bands.
Worse yet is what the Grammys have become in recent years, shamelessly pandering to tween audiences by inviting and even nominating acts such as the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber in an attempt to engage a younger demographic and help buoy the music industry’s failed business model.
It hasn’t worked.
The music industry still is a mess, and by attempting to appeal to a younger audience, one that doesn’t care about the Grammys or what they represent, it has alienated its core audience.
Music fans who might otherwise care about the Grammys now tune into the broadcast for laughs.
To make its annual awards show relevant again, the academy has to stop trying to make the event be all things to all people and become, truly, the Oscars of music.
Paring down the categories from more than 75 this year to less than 20 would make each award more meaningful, and the academy must get a handle on its eligibility period. It’s ridiculous that Mumford and Sons can be nominated for their debut record, “Sigh No More,” last year and receive a nomination for “The Cave,” a song that appears on that album, this year.
In recognition of the music the Grammys should be celebrating Sunday, this week’s playlist features eight songs by artists nominated this year.
I hope the academy’s listening because we could all use one less awards show featuring a pitchy Taylor Swift performance.
• Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend” — If you see me dancing in my car, chances are this song is on.
• Lupe Fiasco, “The Show Goes on” — We need more rappers who use indie rock samples.
• Kings of Leon, “Mary” — A song that perfectly showcases how far this band has come musically.
• Death Cab for Cutie, “Some Boys” — Not a huge fan of this band’s recent work but this song gives me hope for future Death Cab releases.
• Cee Lo Green, “Fool For You” — The sexiest song I heard last year.
• Fleet Foxes, “Someone You’d Admire” — Fleet Foxes are the kind of band the Grammys need to be about.
• Eddie Vedder, “Without You” — Eddie Vedder and a ukulele sounds like a recipe for a disaster of hipster pretension but it isn’t. It really isn’t.
• Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, “Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back” — Yes, that Steve Martin. No, it’s not a joke. Beautiful.
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