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The travesty that is the Grammys

POSTED February 2, 2010 7:55 p.m.
More than 26 million blissfully ignorant Americans tuned in to the 52nd Annual Charade of “Music” — or as you may know it, the Grammy Awards, on Sunday night.
Ah yes, nothing says “Music’s Biggest Night,” like having a scantily-clad pop-star hang upside down from a trapeze, spilling water on the industry suits in the audience.
If you can’t tell, I didn’t actually watch the Grammys myself. I did, however, listen to hours of inane office discussion on the shenanigans of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and whatever other well-endowed auto-tuned flavor of the month they rolled out for Sunday’s festivities.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t hear a word about music in any of these discussions. Because, quite frankly, the Grammys have nothing to do with music.
The Grammys are a celebration of the music business, not of music. They’re a self-congratulatory backslapping way for suits to say, “Wow, look how good we did in convincing the dopes in Middle America to buy into yet another fake pop star.”
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the winner of the Best New Artist award, The Zac Brown Band, who released their first album in 2004. That’s six years ago, if math isn’t your strong suit, and does not qualify as “new” under any sense of the word.
In other idiocy, Green Day won Best Rock Album for “21st Century Breakdown” — a broken down band and album if I’ve ever heard one. I suppose their selection was a better choice than fellow nominee The Dave Matthews Band, who hasn’t had a good album since the late 90s.
I don’t have a problem with all of the selections the Grammys made. There were some catchy, well-written songs selected as winners from shallow fields of nominees.
But, unlike Kanye West, I do not believe that Beyonce Knowles had one of the best songs of all time this year.
What Beyonce had was one of the most popular albums of all time. And she made a lot of people a lot of money this year.
If you look down the list of winners — Taylor Swift, the Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z and Lady Gaga alike — you’ll notice that almost all of them sold a lot of albums in 2009, despite oftentimes middling critical receptions.
Award shows aren’t supposed to be about who is the most popular act, though. Otherwise we could just hand out an award to the best Billboard seller — oh, wait, that’s what the Billboard Music Awards did before they went belly up in 2007, I forgot.
The Academy Awards have their own issues, to be certain, but at least their voters are willing to nominate movies and actors that underperformed at the box office. Sure, hit movies oftentimes end up winning the Oscar, but at least deserving movies usually get a nomination nod.
And, quite frequently, a stunning film like “Slumdog Millionaire” actually takes home the big prize.
The Grammys, on the other hand, seem content to ignore the groundbreaking music of today, the best songs that never make the radio. Instead, should a band stick around long enough, the voters will often recognize artists that are well past their prime.
But ask Neil Young, who won his first Grammy this year, if his shiny gold statue makes up for years of being ignored.
I fully admit that I’m a bit of a music snob. I listen to obscure indie rock engineered for the set whose jeans don’t fit. But there are some revolutionary things going on in rock right now — innovative enough to lead Jay-Z to be a frequent sighting at indie rock shows, and innovative enough to make one wonder why Bruce Springsteen is still winning Grammys.
I’m not familiar with country, electronica, or underground rap, but I’m sure these genres have their own groundbreaking works that were unduly snubbed by the Grammy once again.
It’s a shame, but the Grammys aren’t about music and they’re not about talent. They’re about money and if you can’t write a top ten pop single you don’t make enough money to be considered for an award.
I love music, perhaps too much. I’m the sort of person who should be championing the Grammys to my friends, who should be throwing a viewing party and live-tweeting my reactions to the awardees. But I couldn’t care less about this travishamockery.
Instead, I’m left to put on my headphones, put on a good album, and wonder why, once again, the best music isn’t on stage for Music’s Biggest Night.
To contact Alex Cantatore with your own list of top songs for 2009, or a set of jeans that fit properly, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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