Monday, February 1st, 2010

Everything Your Facebook Friends Said About The Grammys Is Probably Wrong

SASHA FIERCELast night's Grammys caught up to Time's Person Of The Year declaration from 2006 and so they were all about You. You had the opportunity to cover Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" or Beyoncé's "Halo" and appear as a member of a YouTubeMosaic. You had the power to select which song Bon Jovi would exhume from its well-worn back catalog. You had the opportunity to watch the shaggy-haired founder of a cool blogging platform that You might use cover the awards, even if he wasn't 100% clear on who would be amenable to a red-carpet question about his service. And, most crucially, You were able to watch as the artists that You might enjoy were honored by the telecast-provided that the songs and albums You liked had come out before August 30.

And following the reactions to the Grammys last night on Twitter was simultaneously maddening and fascinating, thanks to both the nature of the reactions and CBS' outmoded desire to cling to those 20th-century relics known as "time zones." (I'm in Colorado at the moment, and the MST broadcast aired an hour behind the live action.)

Discussing time zones is probably a lost cause, so let's instead talk about what happens when you throw "pop music" in 2010 open to the masses, who are increasingly defining said term based on the contents of their iTunes library, an RSS reader, and not much else. You have the people who thought that the award-laden Taylor Swift was only famous because of Kanye West interrupting her during her Video Music Awards speech. (Never mind that her two albums have sold some 10 million copies combined to date-and a lot of those sales happened way before September's incident.)

You had the people who actually claimed that "MGMT was robbed" of its Best New Artist award. You had the people who fervently believed that it would be radically revolutionary for The Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat" to win the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration*. You had everyone hating the Black Eyed Peas, pretty much universally. All that hate didn't stop "I Gotta Feeling" from re-entering the iTunes Store's top 10 this morning.

Here's the thing about the Grammys, which people seem to not understand in the name of Making A Statement About How They Have Better Music Taste Than Everyone Else: There's no way that they can't be out of touch with the majority of music fans.

Let us briefly review the rules, which the awards ceremony helpfully provides on its official site:

Recording Academy members and record companies enter recordings and music videos released during the eligibility year….
Reviewing sessions by more than 150 experts in various fields are held to ensure that entered recordings meet specific qualifications and have been placed in appropriate fields….

First-round ballots are sent to voting members… To help ensure the quality of the voting, members are directed to vote only in their fields of expertise….

In craft and other specialized categories, final nominations are determined by national nomination review committees comprised of voting members from all of The Academy's Chapter cities.

Final-round ballots are sent to voting members… the finalists determined by the special nominating committees are also included in this ballot. In this final round, Recording Academy members may vote in the four general categories and in no more than eight (8) of the 29 fields.

And then the results are announced, with most of them being unveiled as the red carpet fills up with disastrously dressed honorees.

This is a long process involving lots of people, many of whom have, let's say, been in the music business for a long time. And it's one that starts way early-for consideration in yesterday's ceremonies, nominated songs and albums had to be commercially released before Aug. 31. (Yes, five months ago!) The out-of-touchness is in part a result of the early deadline, which itself is partially because music is such a sprawling media, particularly when compared with those media honored by the Emmys and the Oscars. (In 2008, more than 115,000 albums were commercially released!)

This sheer amount of available stuff also contributes to some cocooning by the old-guard members who still dutifully cast ballots-hence a live version of Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile" being nominated for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals (it lost to "I Gotta Feeling"), or a live album by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood getting a Rock Album nod (Green Day won), or the Metal category consistently being dominated by old-guard types like Judas Priest (this year's winner) and Metallica.

On the other side, you have the newer voters who might be a little more exploratory than their biz-lifer brethren; the Best New Artist nu-alt logjam of MGMT, the Silversun Pickups and the Ting Tings, for example, pretty much ensured that the Zac Brown Band, who are well-known enough to market their own barbecue rub (it's available at Cracker Barrel), would walk away with the golden gramophone last night.

But letting people know that the Grammys are the result of an ever-more-imperfect process that's the equivalent of trying to pick the Greatest Pine Needle out of the White River National Forest does little to tamp down the white-hot rage that erupts when people feel their musical taste is being ignored.

And apparently getting people to argue is quite the way to get them to tune in, even if they're a couple of hours behind their East Coast pals. Ratings for the telecast were way up, and Twitter's trending topics were lit up with Grammy references last night.

Can't wait for the great Susan Boyle vs. Vampire Weekend debates of 2011 to start.

* I am thrilled beyond belief that The Lonely Island's consumerism-hop parody "I'm On A Boat" did not snag the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Award, despite the groanings of Internet types who somehow found it so weird that a song spawned by a General Electric-produced TV show would be noticed by people in the real world. Call me a fun-hater, but note that T-Pain, who appears on the track, even seemed horrified by the honor; he told Ryan Seacrest, "It's more amazing that a lot of my stuff don't get nominated for Grammys, then a mockery of the art is nominated. It's weird." I'd say it's more "patently offensive" than "weird," myself.

Maura, Maura, Maura!

29 Comments / Post A Comment

"It's more amazing that a lot of my stuff don't get nominated for Grammys, then a mockery of the art is nominated. It's weird." I'd say it's more "patently offensive" than "weird," myself.


Dr. Spaceman (#1,211)

Maybe the art is just a computer program used to shitty effect?

Dickdogfood (#650)

(Never mind that her two albums have sold some 10 million copies combined to date-and a lot of those sales happened way before September's incident.)

Huh. I wasn't aware of her sales numbers; I sorta assumed they were more deflated than that. What do you think the chances that she'll get the first RIAA diamond award in many a moon?

Pretty low. As of Jan. 24, Fearless was at 5.4 million sales (it sold 32k); Taylor Swift is at 4.6m. Perhaps Fearless will sell consistently enough over the coming years for it to inch above 10m someday, but that will likely not happen until 2015 or so. And who knows if there'll even be a music industry then, etc.

As far as her next album breaking the diamond mark, I sense a "difficult third record" is on the horizon…

6h057 (#1,914)

Is it odd that now knowing how Grammy sausage is made I'm hungry for more?

Wait, that's not hunger, it's just pop culture withdrawal…


Fredrick (#268)

I remember when I first became an insufferable music fan (I always loved music, I just didn't always go out of my way to find the most creative examples of it), is when I first realized the Grammys are definitely not the 'music Oscars' as it had always seemed to be marketed.

Now that my tastes are more rounded, the Grammys are still bullshit. It's like only inviting the 'cool kids' to the prom or something. I get that is boosts sales, but how can one be any more 'proud' winning these over a VMA?

Rod T (#33)

Sorry, Maura, and I'm going to let you finish, but Sandra Bernhard's twitter feed told me all I needed to know. (And Lady Miss Kier's wrapped it all up perfectly.)

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I could not agree more about the Lonely Island. The Blues Brothers they are not.

katiechasm (#163)

"The out-of-touchness is in part a result of the early deadline, which itself is partially because music is such a sprawling media…"

Sure, but do you really need five months to give Green Day the same award every year?

(Also: A fun party trick is that the oldest artist nominated in a category always wins.)

David Cho needs to do another Ke$ha-esque report on this Justin Beiber (Bieber? Beeber?) character. I'm pretty hip, but I have no idea what this kid sings or why he's famous. Prior to seeing a pic of him on stage presenting with our girl Ke$ha (who, btw, looked like she had just had sex on the floor of a glitter factory), I had only seen him on Chelsea Lately, talking about how he had asked Rihanna out once (huh?).

Anyone? David? Commenters with children who are aware of this kid?

garge (#736)

I vaguely remembered him from the Today Show, but I thought at first it was because he survived some barely speakable tragedy or was kidnapped, not from la plaza.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

I keep thinking the skateboarder Brandon Biebel started singing, which is very confusing.

The official line on Justin Bieber is that he was a kid from Canada who was on YouTube singing songs by other people — mostly pop-soul stuff like Justin Timberlake and Ne-Yo. While this was all going on, his mom was praying for him to be a beacon of light to the world, and I guess her prayers worked, since he got discovered by Usher and signed to a deal with Island. He works the Internet pretty well — Twitter's trending topic lists will often have Bieber-related terms near the bottom, and he still updates his YouTube page a lot.

Also, I guess to pander to us olds who are near the age of being parents of his fanbase (his mother and I are the same age!), he recorded a song that interpolates the Cardigans' "Lovefool."

As far as teen-scream sensations of recent vintage, he seems pretty legit as opposed to the Internet-borne smoke and mirrors of Tokio Hotel. Last fall he sparked a riot at Roosevelt Field (!!) and his album's been selling well for 2010 — it's not moving NSync numbers, but it is near the million-sold mark, which is a rarer and rarer feat these days. The bonus-track version of his album, My World 2.0, is coming out in March, a mere four months after its original version. The first single debuted at No. 5 on the Hot 100 last week, and it features Ludacris, who I should say has one of my favorite voices ever. (I think it's the way he swallows certain consonants?)

All that said, there is something about this kid that really creeps me out. Perhaps it is the outsized ego lurking underneath that carefully blow-dried hair-helmet? The other day on the red carpet show someone asked him a(n admittedly dumb) question about whether or not he was nervous presenting at the Grammys as such a young'un, and his answer was something akin to "I don't get nervous." Steely resolve! Kinda calls all the romantic longing in his songs into question, though.

I am like 8 million years late to this in internet time, and you may never see this, but THANK YOU, MAURA! This is exactly what I wanted to know!!!!

hockeymom (#143)

I thought this was going to be about Pink's performance.
Very cool.

HiredGoons (#603)

I don't see the appeal in creating programming around THE LEAST INTERESTING ASPECTS OF MUSIC.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: 'Maura! Maura! Maura!' is either a war-film reference or a Brady Bunch reference, but God I hope it's both.

janine (#248)

I was rooting for Taylor Swift the whole way. They're all millionaires, so i was rooting for the drama. There's been the under-reported narrative all awards season where she's been driving her peers insane and not just Kanye. I don't know what was better the look Ringo Starr gave his wife when she talked about writing every song on her album like it's a big deal or the look on Lady Gaga's face at the end of the night. So perfect.

k-rex (#2,909)

That's cold. She really said that to Ringo's face?

katiebakes (#32)

Ooh, dishy! I want more stories of who specifically hates her and who pretends to like her and then goes and writes mean emails behind her back. And who is just using her to get ahead. Etc etc kthx.

6h057 (#1,914)

I always saw the Brady Bunch as a war film/show.

When you consider the cold war and all.

…dorogaya moya

Ribs (#2,690)

Punchy. I like this.

Ribs (#2,690)

I do some "IT" and i can't figure out how to get a picture :(.

slinkimalinki (#182)

Ribs (#2,690)

update:thanks slinkimalinki #182

KarenUhOh (#19)

You mean they're not still using Clive Davis and the dartboard?

janine (#248)

I don't presume to know all of that dishyness. I just sort of keyed in to the frustration among the olds during the CMTs. Reba was a little pissy as was Carrie Underwood. The Ringo starr thing was during the main part of the telecast when she got her first award and said something along the lines of, I want to thank the record company for allowing me to write every song on my album." He kind of turned to his wife like, hunh? The Gaga thing might have only been visible to us with big HD TVs, because it was during a wide shot of the audience that she did not try to hide her face. It could be all in my head, which is the fun of award shows. I never liked them before i got HD.

her whole "OMG i can't believe you LIKE ME" schtick got old before the vmas. it's like, honey, do you not look at your soundscans?

Tom_SF (#3,281)

I like the way Daryl Hall & John Oates have spent 40 years making "old guard" music and still sound great. Since they get passed-over for Grammy nominations so much (2 in 27 years!) they had better have a Lifetime Achievement award waiting for them.

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