Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why I have no use for the Grammys

A lot of people have asked me why I don't review the Grammys.  Any organization that gives Chris Brown awards instead of putting him in jail is not one I take seriously.  I did watch some of it.  Was thrilled by and for Adele.  Poor Brian Wilson didn't seem to know where he was.  As my partner David said, "the only thing missing from that Beach Boy set was their Filipino nurse."  Seems to me all the performers were either under 30 or over 60.  Some of the acts I thought were atrocious -- old and young.  (What the fuck was that thing with Nicki Minaj?)

But the awards themselves?   To me a Grammy is meaningless. Flash-in-the-pans win seven in one year and two years later are out of the business. The same song can win five times in different categories. At least this year I agreed with the winning song.   But to actually care who wins? What's the point?

More money in Clive Davis' pocket?   Whitney Houston was supposed to sing at his pre-Grammy party last Saturday night.  She dies that afternoon and he decides to throw the lavish party ANYWAY.  (He dedicated it to her -- what a touching gesture.)  I guess he figured, "Hey, I already paid for the ice swan."   Kudos to Chaka Kahn who refused to perform at it.

And how about Whitney's record company, Sony?  They immediately jacked up the price on all of Whitney's albums.  I'm supposed to root for them

But I digress...

Digital Music News recently posted a list of 54 bands who have never won a Grammy.  Okay, some of these omissions I agree with but still!   How can take an award seriously when Take 6 has won eight and the Doors, Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Joplin have won none?  (And honorary lifetime achievement awards after-the-fact don't count.)   Here's the list.  And don't get me started about the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. 

1. The Doors
2. Queen
3. Jimi Hendrix
4. Led Zeppelin*
5. The Who
6. Tupac Shakur
7. Snoop Dogg
8. Bjork
9. Chuck Berry
10. The Grateful Dead
11. Diana Ross
12. Nas
13. The Beach Boys
14. Bob Marley
15. Janis Joplin
16. Buddy Holly
17. Notorious B.I.G.
18. (Eric B. &) Rakim
19. Rush
20. Run D.M.C.
21. Guns n' Roses
22. Boston
23. Sam Cooke
24. Talking Heads
25. The Ramones
26. The Everly Brothers
27. Patti Smith
28. Public Enemy
29. Sly & the Family Stone
30. The Sex Pistols
31. Parliament &/or Funkadelic
32. The O'Jays
33. Creedence Clearwater Revival
34. The Stooges
35. Motley Crue
36. Kiss
37. Deep Purple
38. Journey
39. Jackson Browne
40. The Pretenders
41. Toby Keith
42. New Order
43. Depeche Mode
44. Tiesto
45. The Kinks
46. Morrissey
47. The Smiths
48. ABBA
49. Dusty Springfield
50. Teddy Pendergrass
51. Oasis
52. Curtis Mayfield
53. The Byrds
54. ZZ Top


forg/jecoup said...

As a Filipino myself I laughed with that Filipino nurse joke ;)

Glad Adele swept the awards! :)

GregN said...

I haven't watched since Jethro Tull won in the first Metal category.
And why isn't Shawn Phillips on that list?

scooter said...

Chaka Kahn being the Chaka Khan tribute band that tours the Catskills...

julian said...

picture of adele - if her hands hurt that much, she should really get them looked at, poor thing.

404 said...

Not that I ever cared that much about the Grammys to begin with, but I stopped even noticing them the year Lou Bega won for "Mambo Number Five" I mean, regardless of whether or not it's catchy (it isn't) or fun to dance to (it's not)--THAT was the best song of that particular year?

Either the Grammys suck, or the state of popular music in general sucks. Either way, time to tune out and look for stuff worth listening to.

VP81955 said...

The Grammys are great if you like to celebrate bling. If, like me, you prefer to celebrate music...

jbryant said...

404: While Lou Bega was nominated for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance Grammy for "Mambo Number 5," he didn't win. The song wasn't nominated for Record of the Year or any other major category.

David said...

To be honest, your assessment is accurate for ANY awards show, be it Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes, etc.

404 said...

huh. My whole Grammy-hating life has been a lie! Obviously I tuned out long enough ago that I've forgotten it all.

Maybe it was just the nomination that did it. Either way, it was a crap song being recognized as outstanding by a room full of people who clearly had a different idea of music than I did.

Ken Copper said...

Hunter Thompson said it best: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side."

RCP said...

The behavior of Clive Davis and Sony doesn’t surprise me – Whitney Houston self-destructed in slow motion while onlookers cashed in. Here’s an idea: a reality show! Was Houston responsible for herself? Yes and no – anyone who has dealt with a drug addict know it’s not always that simple.

I’ve never watched the Grammys or taken them seriously for the exact reason that performers like Patti Smith, Queen, The Who, Dusty Springfield, and Bob Marley were never awarded the “prize.”

Mike McCann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike McCann said...

Chaka's refusal to sing on the awards -- and the insightful comments she made the next night on Piers Morgan -- dramatically raised my opinion of her.

That said, I have to compliment Glen Campbell for a touching and memorable performance. He remains one of the most under-appreciated stars of this or any time.

Brian Phillips said...

To GregN: To be correct, the award was for Heavy Meta/Hard Rock the year that Jethro Tull won, so it is a bit less ludicrous. By the way, flutes weigh a TON, so there!

The Grammys are and have been rather silly, because everyone knows that big sales always equals talent.

For those who think that the Grammys are bad, Oscar has had pretty lousy taste in music, too. Ennio Morricone was the Susan Lucci of the Oscars until 2007 and even that was an honorary award. As for original song, even though it didn't win, how did "Marmalade, Molasses and Honey" get nominated?

Listen to this timeful classic here:

jbryant said...

404: No sweat; it's not like there haven't plenty of other absurdities among the Grammy nominations over the years.

But, as David suggests above, the consensus taste of any given awards group will never match up with that of any individual. How could it? Especially in something as diverse as music, which has much more eligible material every year than, say, the movie biz.

The Grammy nominations are usually a mix of the sublime (occasionally) to the ridiculous (often), but I usually enjoy parts of the show as a concert, which is what it is really -- with brief interruptions here and there to hand out an award.

-Phil said...

If the Grammys ad the power to put people in jail, I wonder who would be there.

Tim W. said...

Everything you say is true, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying for my EGAT.

Don K. said...

Re: Brian Wilson- if this was anyone's only exposure to him in the last several years I can see why people would think he was, well, somewhat disengaged from what was happening around him. However, I've seen him live several times since he resumed live performances in 1999 and he's much more together that you might think. Granted, he will never, ever be 100% again, but, he does rather well in a more structured environment where there isn't so much going on. He can still sing the hell out of God Only Knows (I know, his brother Carl did the original) for example and he does a pretty fair job on Good Vibrations in his own shows as well when 95 other people aren't trying to pollute the song, as what happened the other night. I wouldn't use Sunday night as the litmus test.

As for Chris Brown, I was rooting for him to fall off that cubist contraption but it never happened.

Also, many times someone would be introduced as "already having won four awards (or two or three, whatever) this evening" and my wife and I would look at each other and say when was that? We've been watching, and they haven't given out hardly diddly yet. Was the West Coast verson heavily edited or something?

Charles H. Bryan said...

@404 "Either the Grammys suck, or the state of popular music in general sucks."

I have to choose?

Actually, I sometimes like the Grammy Awards because it has more performances (some of them actually good, but you never know before hand) -- it's not some long "Thank You" fest.

Why does the Word Verification now look like it was assembled by drunks and Chaucer? There's a ligature! How am I supposed to type a ligature?

Cap'n Bob said...

Never watched, never will.

Breadbaker said...

There are separate Grammys for:

Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album
Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album
Best Banda or Norteno Album
Best Tropical Latin Album

Even worse, the best "historical" album was a remaster of something that came out when I was in high school

jbryant said...

Don K: Since the Grammys have roughly one zillion and thirty-three categories, they can't announce them all on air.

cshel said...

That Filipino nurse joke was hi-larious.

Agree the same sentiment/examples could be applied to all award shows.

I tape the Grammy's and then just fast-forward to the performers I want to see, and anything else that catches my attention as I zoom by. I really wanted to see Adele. She was funny on the 60 Minutes piece right before the Grammy's.

Since Chris Brown and Rihanna are supposedly back together, the Grammy's should have just gone all out and had them do a number together, perhaps re-enacting the incident. I would have had less fast-forwarding to do.

Bobby Dazzler said...

The first rap Grammy was presented in 1989.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Artist Formerly Known As The Fresh Prince (undeservedly) won for "Parents Just Don't Understand" beating out JJ Fad, Kool Moe Doe, LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Artist Formerly Known As The Fresh Prince backed up the following year with "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson", too good for De La Soul, Public Enemy, Tone Loc and Young MC.

Credibility problem?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

The one thing I'd say in favor of the Grammys is that some categories have sometimes turned up some very cool awards. I wrote up one year for Scientific American the work done by a couple of mathematicians and sound specialists (in New Hampshire IIRC) who won for the ground-breaking work they did restoring the only known live (wire) recordings of Woody Guthrie to listenable quality. The other cool category is the historical one, where a sound engineer friend of mine was nominated - coincidentally, the year that Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? got nominated for various bits of its wonderful soundtrack. So my friend, a diehard folk music aficionado, got to go to the Grammys and hear Ralph Stanley perform "Oh, Death" live, a highlight of his life.

So even the Grammys have their moments.

PS: the new captchas are unreadable. If they're going to stay like this, I may not be able to continue commenting (lack of patience).

Kirk said...

"Flash-in-the-pans win seven in one year and two years are out of the business"

Christopher Cross comes to mind.

gottacook said...

Even worse, Christopher Cross got the Oscar for co-writing (with Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen) and singing that horrible song from Arthur - the one element of that movie that sticks out like a sore thumb when viewing it today.

I agree about the new Captcha images - can't the old type be restored?

Mr. Hollywood said...

I had to laugh big time at a few things I saw just after the death was announced. On the recording academy site, they were streaming the Clive Davis party (why they didn’t cancel that is beyond me, considering her body was 4 floors above them all the while the party was going on!) and there is this hot looking black babe interviewing people coming in. So she’s talking to the prez of the recording academy who is going on about the great loss and the sadness … he was very eloquent … and she finishes by saying to him …”have a fantastic evening!” Nice … very nice.

Then I see a sound bite from the human skeleton Larry King, who says they should have cancelled the party … while he is on the way in to the party! Guess even he couldn’t miss those free appetizers!

Finally, a sound bite from David Foster, big time record producer. He’s asked his feelings when he heard she had died … his answer “The same as I felt when I heard about JFK.” Really? Oy Oy Oy!

Joey H said...

The record industry has roughly the same integrity as most boxing promoters.

Mike said...

Not only that, the following people have won Grammys.

Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama
Jimmy Carter
Jesse Jackson
Magic Johnson

Pete Grossman said...

Glen Campbell, The Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett? This show is more like the Grampys!

Bruno Mars was fun. Awfully tight and outta sight. He had the best line of the night "Get up off your rich asses!"

Dig Adele.

Maroon 5 who I like - what freakin' key were they singing that Beach Boys tune in? As my music teacher in college would say, "Q Sharp?"

Frank Abe said...

Thank you for always championing Brian and the Beach Boys. Don K. is right, Brian's resurgence since 1998 has been a gift. He looked lost in the crowd, but on his own, with The Brian Wilson Band behind him, he's clearly in charge and cementing his legacy.

James Blight said...

"But to actually care who wins? What's the point?"

Ken, please believe me when I say that I mean this with (almost) zero snark -- but aren't you the same guy who took about TEN YEARS to recognize that "American Idol" was a piece of over-sensationalized crap?

(Don't worry, Ken. Most of my indignation is reserved for those movie critics who tore apart the "Transformers" or "Sex and the City" sequels but seemed to have no problem negotiating their way through the vomitous first films.)

Pat Reeder said...

For all the cliched Internet snark about the age of some of the performers, I'd certainly rather hear McCartney, Bennett, Springsteen, et al, than most of the talentless, overproduced tin ears that comprise music stardom today (Adele excluded). Interesting to see how she and the Civil Wars had the audience spellbound with just their voices, while Katie Perry, Nikki Minaj and various interchangeable rappers needed more special effects and explosions than a Michael Bay movie just to keep the crowd awake. Hell, I'd rather see Doc Watson than the whole lot of them, and he's 88.

But then, everyone's known the Grammys were a load of balloon juice since 1978, when Elvis Costello and the Cars lost for "Best New Artist" to A Taste of Honey. I recall someone in Stereo Review said it was because "Boogie Oogie Oogie" was the only non-Bee Gees disco song that Grammy voters could recognize in elevators. No wonder Homer's Room Service waiter on "The Simpsons" threw his tip away in disappointment when he realized it was only a Grammy Award.

Here are some more Grammy low points, if you enjoy wallowing in other people's mistakes as much as I do. You'll discover that Grammy voters embarrassed themselves over something called "A Taste of Honey" twice, 13 years apart:,,316700,00.html

David Baruffi said...

Here's why the Grammys have no value, and it has nothing particular to do with who has or hasn't won a Grammy or anything like that. There's like 90 or so categories, and God-knows how many albums and recording actually get made that it's literally impossible for one, much less a group of people to honestly evaluate them? It's impossible! Sure Aretha Franklin probably did deserve every R/B Vocal Grammy she won, I mean, she's Aretha Franklin for Christ's sake, but well never know for sure, and if you do, it'll be years later. I'm not claiming any other Award show is more or less accurate, but with only so many eligible films or tv shows, even if somebody misses one or two, it's possible to watch enough of the major ones if you're paying attention, to make a fairly reasonable of the Best Picture or Actor. May not get it right, but it's quite rare for any the Oscars to completely get it wrong. No "Freddy Got Fingered," ever won, or something else that bad or worse. It's all entertainment anyway, I get that, so the best you can do is make reasonable judgments, and most Awards try to do that. The Grammys, I think they may want to, but it's not possible. That's why the Grammys have no value.

Dan Tedson said...

I'm a little biased as The Doors are my favorite band (I'd have Indian Summer as my car horn if the city would ever sign the goddamned permits), but even worse than being snubbed for a Grammy was that they weren't invited to Woodstock. Sure, it was right after the Miami thing and Densmore said that half their shows were crappy musically by that point, but Christ, almighty, can you imagine Jim shamanazing to half a million people? They'd still be filling in the crater.

Pat Reeder said...

To David Baruffi:

You're right, there are way too many categories for any voters to listen even once to all the nominees. They tried to rectify that by reducing the number of categories, but I think they did it by tossing darts. I seem to recall that they got rid of entire legitimate genres of music but kept 5 or 6 slight variations of others.

Another problem that will only grow bigger every year as the music industry splinters is that the Grammys reward sales, not quality of music. I buy a lot of music in all types of genres, and I think it's the best around or I wouldn't pay money for it, but very little of it is major label or a big seller. There's a lot of lowest common denominator crap on major labels, and a lot of great artists on indies who will never see a Grammy nomination.

Hell, my wife is a singer of jazz and standards; her debut album just got a rave review in Jazz Inside magazine, and I think her voice is light years beyond a lot of the people you hear on the Grammy Awards. But she'd probably never be nominated unless her indie CD was picked up by a bigger label and got a promotional push. And whoever won the Grammy for Best Liner Notes the year our "Hollywood Hi-Fi" CD came out on Brunswick, I dare him to put his notes against ours in front of an impartial jury and see which one gets more laughs.

Naz said...

It's very telling that the old timers still have people's interest in them whereas someone like Nikki Minaj won't have anyone giving a shit about her.

Hmmmm Chris Brown....I'm stunned that they allowed him onstage twice and even recieved an award. Not sure how anyone could even give Mr. Rage the time of day nevermind kudos. As for Rianna, she's going down the Nicole Brown Simpson road.

Is anyone really surprised at the outcome of Whitney Houston?

Doug Thompson said...

For the 1966 Grammy Awards, The Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations"
lost the 'Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording' award to "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band, which was recorded by a bunch of British studio musicians and singers. They were not real until after the song was a hit and they needed a group to tour.
That being said, "Good Vibrations" IS in the Grammy Hall of Fame and I strongly suspect "Winchester Cathedral" never will be so honored.
For the 1988 Grammies, The Beach Boys song "Kokomo" lost to the Manhattan Transfer's "Brasil" for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal'.

Enough said.

Mike said...

"Steely Dan won album of the year, and the year was 1975."

PS: Why is my prove you're not a robot showing Greek letters?

jbryant said...

Pat Reeder: Sounds like you and your wife need to check out the Grammys' social networking service, Grammy 365. Linda Chorney, a 51-year-old New Jersey native without even one SoundScan purchase to her credit, successfully used it to promote her way to a Best Americana Album nomination. Here's the story:

As for the Grammy Hall of Fame, at least part of its existence is clearly to right past wrongs (as well as honor recordings made prior to the awards' inception in 1958).

Edward Copeland said...

I used to keep track of what consecutive year it was of me not watching the Grammys, but the number is so high now that I've lost track. The last time was when I was in high school and George Michael won a bunch and they introduced a heavy metal category and it went to Jethro Tull. It never made sense to me that even if it awards went to good stuff (like Paul Simon's Graceland) one year, he could win again the following year for another song off that album because it wasn't released as a single until the next strange Grammy eligibility period.

Pat Reeder said...

To Jbryant:

Thanks for the tip. My wife was actually out in LA a few months back and went to the Grammy Museum. While she was there, she talked to someone on staff and gave him a copy of her CD. He really liked it and said she should perform there at one of their showcases, so maybe someday she'll win a Grammy and erase the shame of all those previous injustices. I'll admit, they did make a good start when they named Esperanza Spaulding Best New Artist over Justin Bieber, even if all the 12-year-olds were outraged.

Pete Grossman said...

BTW, even though I do call it the "Grampys," (above) still dig those guys.

Bob Oscar said...

Are you kidding me? Snoop Dog has never won a Grammy?


Ike Iszany said...

Why the Grammys suck. Bob Newhart (no disrespect intended) has as many Album of the Year Grammys as The Beatles.

Mike Barer said...

I think it's sad that Brandi Carlile, a dynamite singer from here in Maple Valley, Washington hasn't won.

jbryant said...

Mike: What's weird is that Brandi Carlile songs such as "The Story" and "Turpentine" sound like perfect Grammy bait -- well crafted, beautifully sung, not too extreme. I'm kind of shocked they didn't get nominated.

Tom Galloway said...

TJust to be fair, it's quite possible that Sony didn't make a conscious choice to raise the price on Houston's albums. It's reasonably likely the back catalog uses algorithmic pricing, which keeps track of demand for an album and, with a hopefully reasonable range, sets prices accordingly. So an album that gets 10 sales in a 6 month period would have its price reduced to try to drive sales.

While an album that suddenly gets 100 orders in an hour would have its price raised to take advantage of increased demand. Note the program doesn't know why an album is or isn't selling, just that it is and at what rate.

Forkneea said...

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Lance said...

You can add a 55th name to the list: Buffalo Springfield.

Mike Barer said...

Lance, In absense of a "like" button, I'll say "Good Comment"