Saturday, February 09, 2008

Deconstructing Grammy

The Grammys at 50 are showing their age," crows the latest headline from Newsday. Have the Grammys ever showed anything but? It takes years for them to even deign career artists buzzworthy enough for the Best New Artist trophy. (The most glaring example? Alt country siren Shelby Lynne taking home Best New Artist prize 13 years into her career.)

Yes, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is about as hip as sitting through an Al Gore earth documentary on Current.

For a better gauge of 2007, bless sweet Robert Christgau's still-kicking "Pazz and Jop" poll. The Pazz and Jop poll is decided by a slag of chain-smoking copy monkeys at alternative weeklies and magazine biggies across the states. Published by Christgau's former employer, The Village Voice, the Pazz and Jop poll is the music journo's version of the anti-Grammys.

Prize perennials such as The National's Boxer and Panda Bear's Person Pitch will never be totally at home in the National Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences' annual commercial unit penis measuring contest. Hmpfh.

But 2007 was the year of indie crossover, and the Grammys reflect this nugget. Sort of.

Leslie Feist's Technicolor iPod commercial with her song, "1234" was damn near inescapable. It was an indie-rock mini-musical filled with cascading horns and colorful getups too saucy for The Polyphonic Spree. In fact, right now, a waifish hipster in Williamsburg is blasting Feist's wispy voice through his earbuds on his way to American Apparel. I kid you not.

But Feist represents a middle ground for Grammy voters. Nominated for four Grammys for her modern classic, The Reminder, Feist has almost wriggled the cusp of the soccer mom votes. She's still hip, but she hasn't reached complete Starbucks overkill yet. But give her time. (She won the Shortlist Music Prize this week, an award for artistic achievement by artists who sell less than 500,000 copies.)

The biggest snub? Radiohead's screw you to Hillary Rosen, In Rainbows, was decidedly left off Grammys' radar. That's a shame. Not only did "In Rainbows" stir the dander of industry gatekeepers, it represented Radiohead's most solid work in more than a decade.

While OK! Magazine fixture Amy Winehouse racked up nods for her mind-numbingly good R&B revival, Back to Black, her sterling producer Mark Ronson was only represented in the Producer category. But Ronson would rather have a BRIT award on his trophy rack. "I think the Grammys are a bit like the international industry standard for achievement," Ronson told reporters. "But there is something about the BRITs. There is more of a camaraderie - it's like people are saying this artist is one of our own. It is very special."

Ronson's genre-spanning Version was its own tour-de-force, and it's unlikely that he will perform a medley a la The MTV Video Music Awards. But as the Grammys cross over into Matlock-watching territory and earlybird specials in Ormond Beach, will the award show be able to give the music fans what they want? It's a question on everyone's mind.

"People don't need to see more Beyoncé. Everyone is done with Beyoncé. Sirius Radio's Rich McLaughlin told Newsday. "Been there, done that. People want to see someone newer."

1 comment:

John H said...

give me 'the national', both Boxer and alligator, a little Sharon Jones, a fix of Amy Winehouse and I'm a happy happy man. 'boxer' still kills me.