Thoughts on the 2017 Grammy Awards

It's Monday morning. I got a late start because I was up last night watching the Grammys. Except for the opening Adele song "Hello" I sat through the whole thing (with bathroom breaks during commercials, of course). Upon opening my Facebook feed this morning I was struck by the widely divergent opinions on the overall performance level and individual performances by my Facebook friends. The very same Metallica/ Lady Gaga performance elicited everything from "kick-ass" to "awfully boring and predictable." And while some posters saw politics and political correctness at every turn, other folks felt that the performers were not nearly political enough. 

AR-grammys6a.jpgIn prior years, the Grammys have had more high points and more embarrassing moments. This year, apart from the Metallica microphone issue (maybe someone was getting even with Metallica for their recalcitrance regarding streaming) and Adele having to start over during her section of the George Michael tribute, there weren't any skin-crawling "someone's head is going to roll" episodes. But I missed that occasional (and wonderful) of the over-the-top "Did you just see that" performance. Arguably the best guitar solo came from Bruno Mars during his Prince tribute (Gary Clark Jr's solo during "Born Under a Bad Sign" had my fingers itching to play my well-worn version by Albert King). Mega-guitar moments were few and far between. I suppose that the Beyoncé performance, which had her mimicking a fertility goddess, was intended to be the "WOW moment" of the show, but even on my 60" HD TV screen my reaction was more "Why is this moving so lethargically?" than, "I'm in awe..." 

AR-grammys2a.jpgAt a certain point the Grammys are more like a political debate than an entertainment show. Everyone who's on-camera is trying to make a statement, and while most are fashion or socially oriented statements, some were political, such as A Tribe Called Quest's segment. Since I'm not a big fan of being yelled at, for me their "message" was more of a scree than a clear articulation of issues. After the first thirty seconds, it became, for me, so much noise after the initial wave of WTF wore off... 

But the Grammys have always been political. Not in the current Republicant and Libertard way, but in a corporate power way. The Grammy's were created by Mitch Miller (anyone remember "Sing Along with Mitch?") when he was the A&R (artists and repertoire) head for the popular music division of Columbia Records. He began the Grammys to champion "good popular music" which was anything that was not hip-shaking devil-music created by the likes of Elvis. "The King" never won a Grammy while he was alive... 

AR-grammys8a.jpgAlthough on the surface the Grammys seem democratic, they are not. Sure, the Grammys are one person, one vote, if you are a member of NARAS, but that has been gamed by every major record company since its inception. Their method is simple. If you were lucky enough to be employed by a major record company, you became a member of NARAS. When voting time came there was a corporate memo indicating who you would be voting for. This "block voting" method meant that inevitably the artists from the big labels won most of the Grammys. While I don't have anyone "on the inside" to verify that this practice still goes on, it's obvious that the biggest-selling artists on the large labels are still the principal recipients of Grammys. Now you know why... 

But I keep coming back to the Grammy's unifying mediocrity this year - I came into the presentation with an open mind - show me what you 've got...but I came away with very little that will add to my musical pleasure. Perhaps this is inevitable when an awards show is held captive by corporate financial interests. Better luck next year...

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