Why the Grammys Don't Matter


To Grammys' credit, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and U2 were winning in major categories when they should have been. R&B, jazz, country and, more recently, alternative rock have been somewhat covered thanks to categories tailored to those genres. And the Grammys didn't miss out on the Beatles (and given their record with everyone else who still makes it onto classic rock radio stations and college dorm walls, they could have), though the band's three awards seem pithy for, you know, the Beatles.

Look back on a major category in a past year and there's usually a major disconnect between what is still blowing minds and what was even nominated. 1975 was an important year for music. Released that year: "Walk This Way," "Kashmir," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Tangled Up in Blue," and "Born to Run." The Grammy nominees for Record of the Year the following February: "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian, "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles, "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell and the winner, "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain and Tennille.

Then there is the category that overtly forces the Grammys to make a prediction, Best New Artist, a Hope Diamond of an award that has been bestowed upon Paula Cole, Marc Cohn, Debby Boone, A Taste of Honey, the Starland Vocal Band, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

You have to wonder why the Grammys almost always get it wrong. It could be that the awards were started by executives from major record companies. Their success is measured by chart success and they are paid to have an ear for mass-sellers first and the artists who will be influencing others in a generation second.

It could just be that Grammy voters are incredibly old. They judge the present by the standards of the past and that's why artists with a classic, safe appeal often win and forward-looking ones don't, and why the likes of Dylan and the Stones didn't win until there were Grammy voters whose formative years were filled with their music, and why, in turn, Sinatra was cleaning up when what would become classic rock was in its prime. (Occasionally, the Grammys feel some existential dread over this. They sought younger voters when Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down beat out Purple Rain and Born in the U.S.A. for Album of the Year in 1985. And they reformed their entire voting process when a Three Tenors album got a nomination in that category.)

A work of art's lasting importance is not impossible to predict; our annual Pazz & Jop polls from years past feature the likes of the Who, Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Nirvana winning for the things for which they're still remembered, and the poll even managed to acknowledge formative hip-hop artists like Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash. The Oscars, which largely recruits its voting body from past winners, can be reasonably relied on to pick great films, even if there is a head-scratcher every few years and it develops decades-long blind spots for an important person or two, like famously Martin Scorsese. The Grammys have about 60 Scorseses.

Given that track record, I have to wonder what exactly that DJ was congratulating Neil Young about.

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37 comments
Leonida Bold
Leonida Bold

That's reason why I don't watch Grammy !! It's all about favorite not talent ?????

Kelly O'Connor
Kelly O'Connor

Hard to believe. THOSE are some FANTASTIC groups! Wow.

Mark Carondelet Garlic Brown
Mark Carondelet Garlic Brown

Lack of coverage about the Monsanto shareholders protest I noticed ? Is this more important than a dozen arrests and the towing of more than a half of dozen vehicles ? And there are a lot more in that list of no wins but Curtis mayfield ? If it's pointless then why focus on it ? You could focus on something that has a point ... Like truth in labels for food perhaps ?

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

I thought RFT hated 99% of those artists and made linkbait articles about their hatred of them?

Mike Perry
Mike Perry

Led Zeppelin "proper"... Never won. Lighten up folks.

De Lusion Al
De Lusion Al

mistakes from r.f.t? noo!.. look how they butchered camp Zoe stories...smh

Kenneth Lee M
Kenneth Lee M

but Led Zeppelin did just win a grammy this year for Kashmir

Jason Mills
Jason Mills

Ummm "In their first official Grammy win, Led Zeppelin took the prize for Best Rock Album for Celebration Day, a live album full of 40-year-old songs recorded in 2007."

Byron Nichols
Byron Nichols

Because they are completely rigged to focus on agenda's rather than the making of legitimately good music.

De Lusion Al
De Lusion Al

a Grammy isnt the goal of a true musician..it's only the recognition of the mass hordes of sheep who are tricked into being told what good music is...deadhead over here. {~};}

Wil Grundon
Wil Grundon

Cuz they all sux lol! BIEBER 4-EVER!!

Jeff Rauscher
Jeff Rauscher

I was at first elated then disappointed. When Chicago was scheduled to play at the Grammys, I thought it would be something to listen for. I guess at some point, one must do what is required to ensure a decent payday. They did not sound that good to me, and Robin Thicke did not help IMHO. A band that never got it just rewards, and had to play second to Robin. I will never be sucked into that show again...

Bill Roth
Bill Roth

They don't care about us anymore ..... They care about money

Paul Stover
Paul Stover

I thought the satanic ritual was a bit much. I thought Katy Perry started out as a Christian music artist? She definitely switched sides, I guess that's what you call selling your soul.

Ellen Quertermous
Ellen Quertermous

That was pretty obvious from the first 10 minutes of the program.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

while its fun to watch sometimes. and i enjoyed the Wedding.. I really never watch awards shows. Only the Golden Globes cause seriously, that shit's kinda funny.

Daniel Michel
Daniel Michel

It takes time to see what survives the test of time...

Tammy Pendino
Tammy Pendino

This was food for thought....I was just happy they recognized CHICAGO.

Eric Hall
Eric Hall

This can't be a New Times music post. It's not written by the royal "we."

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

the moment milli vanilli won a grammy ( even before the lip-sync revelation ) the award became a joke.

Eddie Gregs
Eddie Gregs

You probably don't want to know what's in your food, and the Grammys are a total joke

Steve Van Booven
Steve Van Booven

Didn't watch or read this but I will say that giving awards for art is pretty pointless and stupid. How can you judge or rate art? It's all just opinion

Terra Williams
Terra Williams

Are you covering the Monsanto Stockholder meeting today? We want to know what is in our food. Thanks!

Jeff Powell
Jeff Powell

An article I can support whole-heartedly.

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