Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gramma’s Grammy’s

Adele Faces Zero Competition

This is the best video of the year. It's how to do black and white. It's not even the official video. 

It’s that time again — when The Inky Jukebox has a vitriolic rant about the Grammies, nominations for which were announced today. The dates spanning this year’s eligible releases are October 1, 2010 – September 30, 2011.

The Grammies are supposed to represent outstanding achievement in the recording industry, yet they famously do not do this. Here’s why.

First of all, record companies have to submit eligible recordings to the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). They are entered into whatever category the reviewing committee (comprised of “150 experts from the recording industry” whatever that means) feels best suits the recording.

Already this is a problem because what if they feel your recording is pop instead of country, for example? How does this committee determine what category of the 30 available is the right one?

After this, lists of the recordings are sent to NARAS members, whoever they may be, and however many of them there are. These members can all vote for the general fields (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist), and nine of the remaining category fields. (There are 78 actual categories spanning many fields of music and technical achievement.) Though there is the general expectation that these experts will vote on recordings from their area of expertise (whatever that may be), there is no requirement that they do so. They make their choices without necessarily ever hearing the recording, as they are not sent the actual tracks, only the list of track names.

Again, this is highly problematic; surely members will only vote for those tracks they have actually heard, which is determined by personal preference (theirs, or their spouse’s, or their kids’….) or professional familiarity (anyone see a conflict of interest?). They are not supposed to vote this way, but there is no mechanism for preventing it.

Once the top five vote getters in each category are tabulated, nomination ballots are again sent out. This time, the voting is the same, except members can only vote in 8 additional categories.

That’s it. The voting is secret. Add to the tricky voting structure are the mystifying titles for categories, which makes it hard to determine whether a recording is by a soloist, duo, group or ensemble, and whether it is a performance of not. Some categories reward songwriting while others reward singing.

The Inky Jukebox believes it is for these reasons that the Grammies have biome so unhinged with reality. If one takes even a brief look at the nominees in the categories most of us have actually heard, there is a depressing repetition of artists nominated over and over again, seemingly because this particular singer, band or record is the only one many voters have heard or heard of.

Take for example, The Band Perry’s nomination as Best New Artist, which The Inky Jukebox shudders to think they will actually win. Surely most NARAS members will only have heard of them because they have won other awards and because their tween granddaughter kept singing their one song all summer? There is no reason on Earth that this trio of mediocre musicians should be so lauded. The only reason anyone has ever heard of them is in fact because a little girl told her famous Daddy about them and he gave them a leg up. Kimberly Perry’s lyrics are saccharine and awkward, and her voice horribly screechy. They are nowhere near the best new artists Nashville has produced this year.

This category is determined by the eligibility of the recording by which the artist gained widespread popularity. This, itself, is obviously open to interpretation.

It is to be expected that country music will be poorly represented this year, because hardly anything was released within the eligible period. Notable omissions which were eligible and also truly superb are Sugarland’s Incredible Machine and Justin Moore’s Outlaws Like Me.

Prediction: Adele will win. (And so she should.) 

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