Another February, another silly Grammy award show. Yes, in the past, we have made a pretty stated point to rip on the most irrelevant of the major award shows, whether it be our Ten Worst Grammy Offenses list, our Ten Worst Grammy Song Winners, or even my Grammy recap last year. But we do try to make a point on this blog to stay away from ragging on everything (though I’m sure we have slipped up a time here and there), so for this year’s Grammy recap, I will try to only give “constructive criticism”. Consider this my letter to the Grammy committee telling them how to make the show better. More of this, less of that. That sort of thing. So without further ado, my (constructive) criticism of the 2012 Grammy’s.
More of: Highlighting the best voices of pop music that truly captured the previous music in music. Some examples are Taylor Swift, Fun., the Lumineers, and Frank Ocean, who currently hold the cultural zeitgeist and are representative of the year in music.
Less of: There is no need to swing out the same five pop musicians every year. Sure Adam Levine makes all the soccer moms hot and bothered, but that doesn’t mean you have to roll him and his less handsome band mates out every year. Same goes for Bruno Mars: sure he reminds all the old folks of a young Michael Jackson or Frankie Valli, but I don’t think we have to see him every year.
More of: The tribute performances. The Grammy awards are pretty much the perfect spot for a tribute collaboration, and it is always interesting to see who they have collaborate and who they choose to give tributes to. Sure, they aren’t always home runs, but they are almost always interesting. Sure the Grammys had sort of a weird correlation to Bob Marley with songs by Bruno Mars and the Police, but it is still super interesting to have Sting sing “Could You Be Loved” alongside Rihanna and two Marleys (Ziggy and Damian). It’s also great to see Dave Brubeck get some love from Chick Corea and company, and an extremely appropriate Levon Helm tribute of “The Weight” with a huge variety of musicians including Elton John, Mavis Staples, Mumford and Sons, T. Bone Burnett, the Lumineers, and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.
Less of: Giving the same five artists Grammy Awards. It seems like the Grammys just loves giving their awards to the same artists like Kelly Clarkson (3 wins, 9 nominations), Pat Metheny (19 Grammys), Bonnie Raitt (10 Grammys). They also induct three or four new artists into the Grammy in-crowd each year who now become part of the artists they gave awards to every year. Recent examples include the Black Keys and Adele who have been added into the graces of favorites to win Grammy awards for years to come, regardless of how good their releases are.
More of: Song premieres like Justin Timberlake debuting “Pusher Love Girl” (not to mention a great Jay-Z collab on “Suit and Tie”) where JT busted out a suit and tie and big band orchestra for an ultra-classy performance. This sort of debut gets people excited about watching the awards.
Less of: Pushing CBS stars down our throats as presenters. We had the gothic chick from NCIS, the ditsy chick from Big Bang Theory, and the broke chick from Two Broke Girls. Also, since LL Cool J is an NCIS guy, CBS feels like they have the right to make him music’s Billy Crystal, having him seemingly host every Grammy award show. I have nothing against LL Cool J, I just would like to see a little more variety. I felt like I was watching the 2012 Grammys on my DVR at times.
More of: Riveting performances like Jack White, The Black Keys with Preservation Jazz Hall Band and Dr. John, Frank Ocean, and Miguel. White pulled out his awesome she-band/he-band schtick with performing the underloved (in terms of Grammy noms and wins) “Love Interruption”, followed by a blistering performance of “Freedom at 21.” Miguel got a little unnecessary help from Wiz Khalifa but both him and Frank Ocean put in some captivating performances for what has been an amazing year in R&B. The Black Keys also continued their Grammy rock dominance on the award side, but more so, dominated onstage with Dr. John and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band whipping the crowd into a frenzy with a rollicking version of “Lonely Boy”. Sure the song came out in 2011 and probably has no place on a 2013 awards show, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great performance.
Less of: Speaking of 2011 releases, quit giving awards to music that came out two years ago. The Grammy has this weird calendar where it includes releases from November and December of the previous year, and also includes singles from albums two years ago if they were released on the radio last year (for example, “No Church In The Wild” by from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s August 2011 Watch the Throne, which won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for 2012). This runs on an old paradigm where music is heard based on singles released which simply isn’t true anymore with a lot of people hearing music before the album is released. The Emmys do a January-December calendar, the Oscars do January-December, why can’t the Grammys? I would even argue that music is more immediate than TV and movies, so it’s pretty backwards that it’s set up that way.
More of: Artsy country performances. Who said pop music has a monopoly on artsy Grammy performances, with Taylor Swift doing a weird clowny performance and Carrie Underwood busting out a projector dress.
Less of: Weird closers like LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, and Travis Barker. I know CBS is too afraid to have a real rap performance, so having a really safe old school rap performance makes the old folks think they are “hip with it”. Not to mention the weird “contemporary urban album” category since I guess R&B wasn’t cutting it. Are the Grammy’s the whitest award show ever?
All this to say, I wish the Grammy awards would get past worrying about record labels, popular acclaim, and what sells on TV, and worry more about what is truly the greatest and will stand the test of time. An album like Mumford’s Babel has no chance to be remembered in the long run compared to albums like Jack White’s Blunderbuss and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange which will likely be remembered for years. Going back this week and looking at past Grammy winners, it’s shocking how often the Grammys went for the safe, likeable hit of the moment rather than the song that people still love and cherish today. Sure the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards don’t always get it right and politics definitely are a part of it, but I still feel like they get the award winners about half right. The Grammys on the other hand get very little right.
But maybe I’m asking too much. Music is becoming more and more niche and there is no longer many universally beloved acts, so maybe it’s asking too much to say the Grammys have to get better. It might just be a losing battle. But maybe better yet, the Grammy takes some of my criticism and makes the best Grammys yet in 2014. I can dream can’t I?