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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Grammy Week: Like Shark Week Without the Water

Last week the Grammy nominations were announced.

And thus, I have written the most boring sentence in the history of the English language. 

It would not be accurate to say that no one cares about the Grammys. I am sure that Grammy voters care about the Grammys. I can reasonably assume that all current Grammy nominations care about the Grammys. And I damn well know that every previous Grammy winner cares about the Grammys. But as for the rest of us....let's be honest, you didn't even know the Grammy nominations were announced, did you? Like the record industry it celebrates, the Grammy Award is beyond flawed: it is inconsequential. 

Every year, Oscar nominations are scrutinized and picked apart by the masses. Magazines will dedicate whole issues to who got snubbed, entertainment columnists will inevitably call for the Academy's grisly demise, and campaigns will start around the nation to boycott the awards. Regardless of the nominations and winners, the nation will feel very strongly about whom the Academy picks. Contrast that to the Grammys for a moment, if you will. In the previous week, there was very little chatter or debate over the fairness of the Grammys. Katy Perry was inexplicably left out of the Best New Artist category and nobody blinked an eye. Can you imagine the blacklash and fervor that would follow if Heath Ledger isn't nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Janurary? The infrastructure of the United States might crumble due to endless rioting. We, as a culture-consuming public, feel a lot stronger about the Oscars and the Emmys than they do the Grammys.

The Grammy needs help and they need to be fixed. Lucky for them, I am in a fixin' mood.

The biggest problem that Grammys has is the medium that they reward. Film and television are a communal medium. Only three or four new movies come out a week and a sizable section of the middle-class will flock to theaters every weekend to see those films. They sit in dark theaters filled with several other people. They talk about the film with their friends. They read articles about the film in magazines. They blog about the film online. Whatever a viewer chooses to do with that film, it is inevitably involving other people. A film may carry a particular emotional resonance for one viewer, but at the end of the day it belongs to the community and a consensus opinion is usually reached. Music on the other hand, is far more eclectic and personal. Consumers of music rarely choose to listen to music as part of a community session. The vast majority of music that is hear in this country is heard through earphones that keep the sound within the listener's ear and away from anyone else's.

The differences between one album or one song and another may be far greater than those of a movie or TV show's. Movie can fall into many categories (action, comedy, horror, adventure, romance) but chances are, when you go to a movie you will see a 90 minute-150 minute story that will feature themes and situations that you are familiar with. If you were to pick a random CD off a shelf at a record store, however, you may get anything from a 30-minute CD of loosely-connected pop punks songs to a 12-hour box set of Afrikaan tribal rhythms and drum beats. There is far more variability when it comes to music and subsequently, music has a far more fractured audience.

Why then, would an effective awards show make Metal fans sit through hours worth of R&B awards or make Stand-up Comedy album fans sit through hours worth of Country awards? The answer is: an effective awards show wouldn't. So here is what the Grammys should do.

Instead of one awards show on one night that runs for a few hours, why not have 7 awards shows over a whole week? Every decade the Grammys should select the 6 most popular musical genres based on record sales, downloads and cultural impact. For the 00-'09 decade, the 6 most popular genres would be: Rock, Rap, Country, R&B, Dance (Techno) and Pop. Then from Monday through Saturday, they should hold an entire awards show for each genre, so that music fans of each can get a thorough and satisfying show. Then, on Sunday the winners of the other 6 categories would become nominees for all-encompassing categories such as "Album of the Year" or "New Artist of the Year." For example, if Coldplay's Viva La Vida won best rock album, it would immediately be in the running for the "Album of the Year" competition on Sunday in which it would compete against the winners in the other 5 genres. For auxiliary categories such as "Best Reggae Song", or "Best Spoken Word Recording", Grammys could just release the outcome of each competition on the Internet. This way the legitimacy and totality of the Grammys would remain intact, but the show would be far more entertaining. 

Logistics-wise, a seven day awards show would make sense. If advertisers would pay more ad-time on one awards show, why wouldn't they pay for six others of the same awards show for the same price? Plus, advertisers would know EXACTLY what type of audience they would be paying for (i.e Rock fans, Rap fans, etc.). And at the end of the week, the 7 shows are almost certain to have garnered more total viewers than 1 show. As far as whether a network would be willing to commit to an awards show for a whole week of prime-time programming....yes, yes they would. Networks will commit to whatever brings them money. If General Electrics is willing to devote all of NBC's and every every NBC-owned network's time-slots to the Summer Olympics, then someone will step forward to buy the rights for "Grammy Week", especially if the show were to air right now; between the fall and winter TV seasons and before Christmas, so shoppers can go out and buy a Grammy-winning album. 

To me, this makes all kinds of sense....which means it will never happen.

Oh well, at least Herbie Hancock isn't nominated again this year.


Mr. Bojangles said...

Amen dude. There's something mighty unsettlin' about the man who gave us "rock it" winning the "WTF are you serious?" award. I haven't watched the grammy's in 3 years.

Woozie said...

Apparently they're making a sequel to Hancock. Don't quite know how I feel about that, the original was awesome enough ("I been drinkin, bitch!").