Monday, February 16, 2009

At the GRAMMYs: Do you Grimace or Grin?

The GRAMMYs are usually not my cup of tea although the 51st award ceremony this past February 8th produced a few noteworthy performances. Robert Plant, former Led Zeppelin frontman, and bluegrass singer, Alison Krauss, took home five GRAMMYs for their collaborative hit album, Raising Sand. (photo to left of Krauss and Plant by John Shearer)

Coldplay also did well, and took home three GRAMMYs -- Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends received the award for Best Rock Album, and the group received Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, both for the title-track.

Despite some good performances, most people I know are not all that interested in the GRAMMYs. This could be because of the ceremony's emphasis on the Red Carpet -- a music ceremony should not be an exclusive press party for the stars to show off their high fashion. Also, voting is limited to members of The Recording Academy, which is limited to the artists who choose to join. Established musicians can request membership, which allows them to enter recordings, vote and participate in the GRAMMYs, and receive other benefits:

"The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position."
What we need to remember is that there are independent artists out there, many who deliberately have chosen to separate themselves from the corrupt music industry, and thus not become Recording Academy members. It is not unlikely that they outnumber those who are signed with major record companies. This is perhaps where the bias lies, and why to many the ceremony appears to be a publicity show for those in key with the industry. Nevertheless, The Recording Academy aims to follow its mission statement:

"To positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our society at large."
Despite the lack of artists who are not members of The Recording Academy, the GRAMMYs allow contemporary artists to share and recognize each others' work. Another cool thing is rather than just giving sole credit to the musicians, there are also awards for producers, artists, engineers, and so forth. This is great because it puts faces to the names out there that you might only come across upon a close read of an album’s liner notes. Whereas some people might not realize just how many individuals collaborate to produce a record, industry members are happy to congratulate each other on their achievements.

For example, Radiohead's In Rainbows won for the Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package, but this award isn't another for Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and band. Rather, it was presented to Radiohead's art directors, Stanley Donwood, Mel Maxwell, and Christiaan Munro. The band members did receive deserved recognition with the Best Alternative Music Album award.

Although the GRAMMYs offer an exceptional ceremony for all involved, it is a shame that artists who have chosen not to be involved with the industry must go unrecognized. What I think would be neat is if we, the listeners, were able to place our votes for our favourite artists in a major award ceremony similar to the GRAMMYs, but free of membership and class restrictions. All artists and bands, new and old, would be eligible, and there would be worldwide categories like Best Song of All Time... could you decide? ;)


  1. i agree about the Grammys, they are predictable and thats why no one watches them. save for a few performances like MIA.
    (maybe thats why coldplay and the plant/krauss album won as the best lol)

  2. Haha, I wouldn't mind if MIA went m.i.a.