Grammys

Stop Caring About The Grammys

The Grammy Awards are a good idea in theory.  We like to recognize artistic merits in a variety of disciplines, and we feel good when we come together and come up with some sort of consensus decision as to what is “the best.”  The Academy Awards have worked pretty well for film over the years, and the Emmy Awards (despite never giving an award to the greatest television show ever) have done an adequate job as well, so why shouldn’t it be the same for music?  And yet, pretty much from the very beginning, the Grammys have always been garbage.

I remember the moment when I completely lost faith in the Grammys, and it should be noted that this happened when I was in middle school, because that is when any hopes and dreams you may have had about the music industry recognizing artistic merit should die, and you can then readjust your expectations accordingly.  It was when Radiohead’s ground-breaking, landmark album OK Computer lost out to probably Bob Dylan’s tenth-best effort (Time Out Of Mind) that I decided it was probably for the best that I stop giving a shit about this particular award.  I probably should have seen the signs from the previous year, when Beck’s Odelay and the Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness lost out to Celine Dion, but at that point I didn’t have the same investment in either of those albums that I did in OK Computer.  Even at that age, I knew that with that album I could divide my history of listening to music as pre-OK Computer and post-OK Computer, and no matter how good an album Time Out Of Mind may be, it wouldn’t be remembered in the same way.  If you want to view the award as an acknowledgment of the greatness of Highway 61 RevisitedBlonde on BlondeNashville SkylineThe Freewheelin’ Bob DylanJohn Wesley HardingThe Times They Are A-Changin’, and Blood on the Tracks, that’s fine, but that’s the only way to defend it.

It was then that my cynicism fully set in and I finally understood the rants of many alternative artists about the quality of the Grammys.  Here’s how I can best sum it up: “How many Grammy Awards did London Calling win?  That should tell you exactly how much attention you should pay to the Grammys.”  This is an album universally recognized as one of the greatest of all time, one that ends up atop best-of-the-decade lists for two different decades (because of its UK ’79/US ’80 release date), and it received exactly zero Grammys.  In fact, The Clash won precisely one Grammy in the course of their career, an award in 2002 for “Best Long Form Music Video” for the documentary The Clash: Westway to the World, long after the band had stopped making music.  And to top it off, the Grammys had the gall to put together a supergroup performance of “London Calling” to honor the life of Joe Strummer when he died, as if the Recording Academy gave a damn about the group at all when they were around.*

Consider this: Exile on Main Street… Loveless… NevermindIn the Aeroplane Over the SeaAre You Experienced?Who’s NextRemain in LightWilly and the Po’ BoysUnknown PleasuresFear of a Black PlanetThe Velvet Underground & NicoHunky DoryDoolittle…not a single one of these albums received a nomination.  And not only could I list dozens more examples, but I could point to a ridiculous number of artists who never won a Grammy of any kind.

Part of the issue may be with the nature of the Grammys themselves.  The sheer number of albums that are produced dwarf the number of films that are released or television shows that end up on the air, so the mere act of getting thousands of academy members to listen to the same records is enough of a challenge on its own.  Then consider the wide variety of musical genres that exist, and contrast that with the simple comedy/drama divide that characterizes film and TV–it’s even tougher to build any sort of consensus when you take this into account.  And then there is the simple nature of voting, which anyone with a background in political theory can point to as a potential stumbling block.  All of these issues make the Grammy Awards an exercise in futility, and yet for some reason people still get up in arms with the results every year.

Was Morning Phase the best album of the year?  According to us, probably not, though if one considers it in comparison with the other nominees, we agree with the decision.  Though it’s not Beck’s best (which is a nearly-impossible hurdle to clear, considering his incredibly consistent output and the Odelay/Mutations/Sea Change triumverate), if you judge it on its own merits, Morning Phase is a great album filled with gorgeous musical moments and poignant lyrics that will be remembered for years.  But let’s consider that if the Grammys were actually interested in honoring the best of the year in music, then they would have had to invite Death From Above 1979 and have them perform, and despite the fact that they’re only two guys they would have melted the faces off of everyone in the audience with their blistering performance, and then no one would be able to work on Monday.

So really, the fact that the Grammy Awards don’t recognize the best music of the year is more of a public service than anything.  Just don’t get up in arms when they make the “wrong” decision.  They were doomed from the start.

*This is not to disparage any of the performers that participated, all of whom I assume had a great amount of respect for Joe Strummer and The Clash.

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Over the Weekend (Feb. 9 Edition)

News and videos for you to watch as you contemplate the fact that people seem to actually care about the Grammys…

The Grammys were on last night, which prompts us to ask the question first posed by Eels, “Whatever happened to Soy Bomb?”

In general, we here at Rust Is Just Right do not particularly care about the Grammys, a position we will explain in more detail in a piece that will be published tomorrow, but we were glad to see that one of our favorite albums of the year took home that particular prize.  Morning Phase, while not our pick for top album, will certainly find its way onto our list when we publish it in April, and we’re perfectly content to see that the man who made OdelayMutationsSea Change, and Midnite Vultures (and also wrote the 90’s-defining song “Loser”) receive an award.  Kanye West’s antics at the show and subsequent explanation has generated its own series of stories and opinion pieces, of which this Billboard op-ed is probably the best.  At least Beck responded with humility to the whole affair.

In much more interesting news, Grammy Award-winner Kendrick Lamar released a new track this afternoon, the furious “The Blacker The Berry”.

For those who can’t wait for the release of I Love You, Honeybear tomorrow, here’s Father John Misty performing songs from the album for WFUV.

And finally, in probably the best news we’ll hear all month, The Replacements have announced that they’re hitting the road for what they call the “Back By Unpopular Demand” tour.  Of particular interest to us is their April 10th show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, because we can now look forward for the first time to a night of singing along to some of our favorite songs like “Bastards of Young” with one of the all-time greatest rock bands of all time.

Catching Up On The Week (Feb. 6 Edition)

Some #longreads for the moments you refrain from laughter due to serious newscasters using the phrase “Pineapple Express”

We’re really excited for the release next week of Father John Misty’s new album, I Love You Honeybear–his debut, Fear Fun, was a pleasant surprise and the man put on one entertaining live show.  To help prepare you for the new record, be sure to read the profiles on Josh Tillman on Grantland and Pitchfork.

There are few reasons to care about the Grammys no matter what year it is, but the fact that Beck’s Morning Phase was nominated for Album of the Year and as a result will perform with Chris Martin on Sunday’s telecast might spur us to watch.  However, the awards did provide the L.A. Times with the opportunity to talk to Beck and discuss how he feels now that he’s no longer the young buck but an elder statesman for these shows.

If you’ve ever listened to a Sub Pop album from its early days, chances are you listened to an album recorded by Jack Endino.  He was the man behind the boards for a number of the heavyweights of the grunge era, and has continued to record numerous awesome indie bands since then.  Noisey caught up with the former Skin Yard drummer for an interview.

Everybody has been talking about the recent leak of the settlement between Sam Smith and Tom Petty over the similarities between “Stay With Me” and “Won’t Back Down”, and that prompted the AV Club to take a look at other instances of musical “borrowing.”  The first part of the Inventory was released today, so be sure to check on Monday for a few more examples.

And finally, if you still find yourself with some free time this weekend, check out the Albums That Never Were blog, which has painstakingly recreated some of the most famous “lost albums” of all-time, all with meticulous notes about their composition.