Now I understand that perhaps this article doesn’t even need to be read, because, as I’ve already asked, who cares about the Grammys any more? I’m sure that some of you who are reading this article didn’t even know that the Grammy nominations had been announced, and I’d be willing to bet that even fewer of you (none, perhaps?) paid any attention whatsoever to the Grammy Nomination show. As a man who weeps for the music industry on an almost-daily basis, I can assure you, you were not alone in your not caring at all about the Grammys. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to blame your own apathy for this feeling, but instead on the people who decide which artists get nominated for the awards in the first place. I’m not sure if the people responsible represent the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Grammy Foundation, or some other similarly irrelevant body, but for the sake of convenience, we’ll just refer to this group of out-of-touch musical big brass as simply the Grammys.
My point in writing this article is to illustrate to you faithful readers the notion—of which I’m sure you were all probably already aware—that the Grammys are slipping faster and faster toward a cultural quagmire that renders itself largely irrelevant in the eyes of the members of popular culture it is supposed to represent. What I’m saying is, in a nutshell, that the Grammy Awards, bless their soul, have successfully fallen almost completely out of touch with what is actually going on in the music world. To make this even more apparent, let’s look at this year’s nominees.
Kanye West stole the show this year with seven nominations, yet curiously none of those seven included a nomination for Album of the Year, even though his opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was lauded as the best album of 2010 by critics across the board, including Rolling Stone, SPIN, and yes, even Pitchfork. Following Kanye with six nominations were Adele, who fits the stereotypical Norah Jones-esque mold that Grammy nominators swoon over; Foo Fighters, who, now in their forties, have racked up 31 total Grammy nominations; and Bruno Mars, who apparently didn’t get enough attention last year with his six nominations. Following these frontrunners are Lil Wayne and—dare I say it? Yes, I must—hot topic DJ and dubstep master Skrillex. First of all, I didn’t even know that Lil Wayne made a new album. Was this that rock and roll thing he was doing? Wasn’t he in prison at some point too? (Editor’s note: it was Tha Carter IV and it was unremarkable in every way). Strange. Secondly, I will cede the point that Skrillex is as close to tapping in to the vein of what is actually popular in music these days as the Grammys are going to get, but does he really deserve five nominations for music that all sounds pretty much the same? A friend of mine, who would call himself an avid fan of dubstep, said of Skrillex’s nominations, “I feel like he is lucky this year, and if he doesn’t start making not the same song he’s gonna fizzle out faster than N*Sync.” Well put. And what about Foster the People? Their summer smash “Pumped Up Kicks,” the high point of an over all well done album, only gathered one nomination, and that in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. I don’t think there’s much more to add there, so let’s move on.
The Grammys have a colorful, storied history of throwing in some curve balls in an arm-flailing attempt to mix things up in the industry. After all, people are still shaking their heads at the decision in 1989 to award the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance award to Jethro Tull over Metallica. In last year’s Best New Artist category, the award was given to jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding over such artists as Florence + the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Drake, and even Justin Bieber. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got mad respect for any jazz bassist who can crack the mainstream, but the fact of the matter was, Ms. Spalding had not cracked the mainstream, and to my knowledge, still has not cracked the mainstream. The Grammy’s plan of mixing it up with an unheard of artist backfired and left its audience further questioning their judgment. This year, we have a slightly different problem. That is, the Grammys have completely forgotten what year it was and have just thrown in whatever artist tickles their fancy. Let’s look at Exhibit A. I speak of Bon Iver’s nomination for Best New Artist. Yes, you heard correctly. Bon Iver, the folk rock powerhouse led by studio whiz Justin Vernon, a band which formed in the year 2007 and has had two pretty well-known albums since then, is being nominated for Best New Artist. Does that make any sense to anyone else out there? They may as well have nominated Mumford and Sons, whose only album came out almost two years ago, for Best Rock Performance. Oh wait. They did! That’s right. The Grammys went and nominated Mumford and Sons, the folk band whose album collected a number of nominations last year, for Best Rock Performance. Now I love Mumford and Sons as much as the next guy, I really do, but Best Rock Performance? There’s no way. In another crazy Grammy-related surprise, Sum 41 was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. Honestly, I don’t have much to say here, because I didn’t even know Sum 41 still existed.
So, for those of you still planning on watching the Grammys, I wish you the best of luck. I guess all we can hope for is to see Cee-Lo Green yet again make a fool of himself by dressing up as a giant peacock with Gwyneth Paltrow dancing on his piano while they sort of sing “The song otherwise known as ‘Forget You.’”