The Grammy Awards: What were they thinking?
So, I’m all for mutual-admiration-societies. You know, where you’re recognized by your peers with a gaudy gold award for producing something that’s entirely your job. Though, I suppose the point is to recognize that some creative works are better than others, but no one goes around pinning awards in most professions. No, this is a phenomena pretty much strictly involving the entertainment industry, and almost exclusively limited to Hollywood. I say ‘almost’ because the Tony awards recognize outstanding theater performers (which is pretty much exclusive to New York). And yes, there are the Saturn awards for novels, but again this is still considered entertainment.
Good Work or A** Kissing? You decide.
So, I’m all for recognizing good musical work. After all, that’s what the radio is for. Listeners vote by asking for music to be played and by purchasing it. Of course, we all know that’s not exactly true. Radio stations put music into heavy rotation mostly because of things other than popular requests. Sure, sometimes it is, but most times it’s because the producer wants it played and pays for that. And you might think that consumer music purchases are what drives the ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ certifications. Nope. These certifications are assigned based solely on how many copies SHIPPED to retailers. Not how many were ultimately purchased. So, if 1 million copies are shipped to retailers, that’s considered ‘Platinum’. If 500,000 copies ship to retailers, that’s considered ‘Gold’. I’m not even sure how or if digital purchases factor into these certification programs.
The assumption is that the certification implies that there is a correlation between sales and shipments, but that doesn’t explain cut-outs. Let’s just say that this certification program is a bit of a scam. It doesn’t really say anything about the quality of the music or whether the music actually sold. The sales are merely implied. If someone has deep enough pockets to print 1 million copies of an album and get them shipped to retailers (whether or not a single copy sells), that would still be certified as a platinum album.
Music is subjective
Yes, it is. But, music is also derivative of other works. Sometimes it’s outright copying. Sometimes it’s rehashing tired themes and genres that have already been tread. Let’s take the 2014 Grammy Album of the Year: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories as an example. What’s wrong with this album? Well, it’s good, but it’s not the best album I’ve ever heard. The music on RAM is mostly derivative, tired and somewhat cliche not to mention retro. It’s not that it’s not well performed, but it’s well under the level of skills I’ve heard from Daft Punk. The 2010 Tron Legacy Daft Punk soundtrack is a much stronger work musically than Random Access Memories by far. So what does that say?
It says that of all of the albums released in 2013, Daft Punk’s was the best. In fact, I found a large number of tracks on Random Access Memories unlistenable. Not because the tracks weren’t produced or performed well, but because they are just musically weak. They just don’t hold up to repeated listens. Yet, here we have the Grammy judges selecting it as the best album of 2013.
Personally, the best album of 2013 in my eyes would have to be OneRepublic’s Native. But, this album wasn’t really even recognized, for the most part. Only a single OneRepublic track was even nominated, ‘I Lose Myself’ and it didn’t win. The album wasn’t even nominated for best album. Yet Daft Punk’s mediocre album was nominated and won… so…
What’s up with that?
So what’s up with that is that it isn’t about the best music. It’s about the notoriety of the artist. Daft Punk has been recently riding the wave of publicity. The Grammy judges are only riding that same wave along with the artists. Winning has little to do with the music and has everything to do with trying to pull in as many viewers as possible. That’s crystal clear.
Daft Punk will drag in tons of viewers. OneRepublic won’t. But, OneRepublic’s Native is a completely outstanding and consistent album of mostly fresh tracks. I will state that they do sound a little like U2, but with a much needed sound update. However, the songs are mostly original, fresh and stand up to repeated listens especially when placed into a pop playlist of other tracks.
On the other hand, the Daft Punk RAM tracks are too long, sound too dated, are chock full of interruptions & weird intros and just drone on far too long in a pop playlist. Basically, they’re not something that I want to listen to often in a playlist. On the other hand, when I get into the mood for OneRepublic, I want listen to the whole album over and over. The songs are melodic, have catchy hooks, are mixed solidly, have solid musical themes and just overall work well as pop tracks. But, it’s just not individual tracks. It’s a whole album of them. They’re all consistent, catchy and fresh from start to finish of the album. There’s really not a bad track or performance on OneRepublic’s Native and this is, if no other reason, why this album is actually better than Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Of course, if you don’t like bands like U2 or The Script, you may not find the music to your taste, but that doesn’t make this album any less strong production-wise or musically.
The Grammy Snub
So, not seeing a musical artist like OneRepublic recognized for their outstanding work on an album like Native is a fairly major snub. The Grammy awards simply snubbed this artist for no real reason. It also says the Grammy awards are in it for the viewers and the money, not for actually recognizing the best music released during a year. This is the reason I generally avoid watching award shows. I just don’t trust the judges to pick the best works for that year. I’d rather find the best entertainment myself. As for Bruno Mars’s win, I’m on the fence. Unorthodox Jukebox had some strengths, but his vocals were really not that strong. He’s a reasonably good vocalist, but not the best I’ve heard. Unfortunately, I found the songs on Unorthodox Jukebox themselves to be less than impressive than OneRepublic’s Native. I’m not even sure why Unorthodox Jukebox was even considered for the 2014 Grammy awards as the album was released in December of 2012. Mutual admiration societies are really not good at actually picking the most outstanding of their bunch.