Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Good, the Bad and the Grammys

Because the Academy Awards broadcast was moved up a month, the Grammy show was also given an earlier-than-normal airdate for 2005. That’s why, instead getting our list of hopefuls in the dead of early January, the nominees for the 47th Annual Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday.

According to the L.A. Times, retailers are pissed because the change of date deprives them of the usual post-New Year’s sales bump — as if the teens hoping to exchange Christmas cash for new CDs have somehow seen the Grammy voters as arbiters of hip. But the Grammy establishment is probably pretty pleased with the change, as for once their short-list arrives at the same time as the usual avalanche of Top 10 lists. No more Johnny Catch-Up for them, nossir.

Most of the news stories followed the numbers, and made much of Kanye West’s 10 nominations, Alicia Keys’ eight, and Loretta Lynn’s five. What almost no one pointed out was that none of the three can possibly that many Grammys. West is competing against himself in both Album of the Year (both as a producer on Keys’ album, and as artist on his own) and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Keys’ nods include two each in Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best R&B Song, while Lynn wrestles against herself for Best Country Song (“Miss Being Mrs.” versus “Portland Oregon”).

But the biggest con is that despite a ballot littered with unexpectedly hip names — Cradle of Filth! Modest Mouse! Scissor Sisters! Franz Ferdinand! — the bulk is utterly predictable, tilted as ever to warhorses (Elvis Costello, Prince, U2, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Dolly Parton, Al Green), recent big winners (Keys, Nora Jones, Alison Kraus) and the deceased (Brother Ray). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which group will end up as wheat, and which as chaff.

As always, it’s tempting to snipe at some of the more ludicrous choices (Queen Latifah is a jazz singer? Not on the album I got), but as it’s always better to be constructive than destructive, I’d prefer to suggest that the Grammy folk merely change the wording in their awards a bit. Instead of Record of the Year, why not Record of a Year? No need to specify which one, either. That way, the next time a recording that’s five or 10 years behind the curve is awarded one of those statuettes, viewers at home can entertain themselves by guessing what year, exactly, it represents. (“Anita Baker?? That’s so 1987!”)

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