No musical genre is its own island, free of influence from all other forms of music. In one way or another, each genre has its origins set in another, like blues and rock-and-roll. So when the Recording Academy claims that it honors ‘achievement in the recording arts and support[s] the music community,’ why does it feel like the telecast of the 48th Grammy Awards puts musical blinders on the nation’s viewers?
Yes, it is true that recognition was awarded in genres ranging from Latin to polka and basic pop, but only those watching especially closely would notice. At the bottom of the screen during the Grammys, various awards given earlier in the night were quickly spotlighted before commercial breaks. Artists like Yolanda Adams and even The Chemical Brothers skipped by at the bottom of the screen, eschewed in favor of artists from the telecast-dominating mainstream pop and rock.
Believe it or not, there is musical life beyond the boundaries set by the Grammys.
Yet in a commercialized industry governed by greed and money, the Grammys appear to have no choice but to cater to Mainstreet, USA’s most popular musical tastes. After all, without Grammy viewers, there’s much less of a reason to have the Grammy telecast. Without the Grammy telecast, there’s much less of a reason to continue giving out awards.
Recognition of excellence in the music industry is and always will be important, but who is to say which musical genre is more important? The Recording Academy’s vow to award not based on album sales or chart position is commendable, especially in light of other vile award shows whose voters are the audience members at home. I refuse to put my full trust and acceptance in any show for which power is delegated to the vote-on-a-whim American public.
Although not exactly an award show, in 2003, another ‘American Idol’ was coming to an end. Between finalists Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, one singer went on to win the America-votes ‘American Idol’ competition and the other actually went on to have a career.
It is much more reliable to trust three judges or, in the Recording Academy’s case, 16,000 voters, than the informed American public. Those experienced in the industry will not vote on a whim or push a singer forward on ludicrous premises.
Ruben Studdard was not an amazing singer at his audition or in the final ‘American Idol’ show. Average vocal chops were complemented by a lovable face and a teddy-bear persona with which America fell in love. Yet when one listens to a Studdard CD, all visual aids into his personality disappear and only the average vocal chops are left to entertain.
Try as hard as you can, listening to a Studdard CD will never yield the same pleasing effect as watching him on TV.
But I digress.
What I want from the already three-and-a-half-hour Grammy telecast is more variety. Instead of lumping musical selections from different genres into one quick music montage, they should be scattered throughout the evening. Amazon.com-length snippets of the winners from less commercially satiating genres could be inserted at various points during the show.
The music-loving American public has found itself numerous times stunned by a musical newcomer who sets the industry on its ear with a distinctive new sound or blending of genres. The ‘egotastical’ Kanye West and jazzy Norah Jones fall into this category. Thus, the public can be made flexible to new musical experiences; the Grammys should take the first baby steps.
The Grammys should take these small risks and invite its many viewers to expand their musical horizons. Without the telecast’s help, most of the American public has few other outlets for experimenting with other musical styles. More significantly, most people probably do not even realize how much less-popularized music could pique their interest.
Brief exposure to gospel, world, Latin and blues music on the telecast might even stimulate the creative powers of artists on the show. Think of how interesting future musical collaborations might become if both artists and consumers were flexible to wider-ranging influences?
The more engaging performances on the telecast already were collaborations. Although an R&B/rock collaboration isn’t exactly broaching new musical territory, Mary J. Blige singing ‘One Love’ with U2 proved to be very entertaining, especially with Ellen DeGeneres’ unforgettable introduction. After explaining that ‘this next band needs no introduction,’ she walked off the stage.
Good ratings are imperative for the Grammys’ continued success and prominence. Increasing the telecast’s musical horizons will set the show apart from other lesser award shows, revolutionize the music industry and change the way American consumers think about music. All we need is for the Recording Academy and the Grammys to lead the American public in taking the first baby steps toward a more musically exciting future.