The Grammys

I think this is my 7th or 8th time going to the Grammys while being nominated some 18 times. It is an honor to be recognized by your peers for artistic achievements, and interesting to have the opportunity to see what is happening in the world of popular music up close.

In a general way, this year’s Grammy telecast was a highly polished production that focused on pop music (hip hop, country, rock and roll,) and conspicuously left out jazz blues, and classical music.  Most everything was incredibly loud, somewhat unimaginative, and lacked most sense of subtlety. It seemed like there was far more focus on the “look” of the music rather than the content. Even Tony Bennett sang a duet with an average pop singer, hence diluting his greatness and sense of style.

There were a couple of nice moments in the country-rock genre where you could really appreciate the musicianship and craftsmanship of the writing (The Civil Wars, Taylor Swift) but by and large we were witnessing a dumbing down of music, where technology is replacing subtlety and texture. A DJ named Dead Rat, or Dead Mouse performed (??) a number that was so loud that it felt like the molecules in your body were permanently re-arranged.  Don’t people realize that this kind of volume will cause severe hearing loss? Chris Brown danced his ass off, and sang (did he sing live?) a pretty nice R and B tune.

Most of the “music as craft” was relegated to the pre-telecast in another building. Latin Jazz, Native American Music, and contemporary jazz was conspicuously missing this year, thus destroying the prospect of certain artists being recognized.

How on earth do you choose between the Yellowjackets and Sonny Rollins in the jazz category? To delete many of the detail oriented categories further confirmed that detail in music has taken a back seat to production, promotion, and appearance.

The highlight of the pre-telecast was an opera singer who sang an aria. She was really the only performer that displayed any sense of virtuosity the whole day.

So on one hand you have the Grammy foundation doing some terrific things in music education and helping those in the music community that are in need. The paradox winds up being that by leaving out blues, jazz, and classical music from the live telecast, and losing certain important categories in the pre-telecast sends out the message that subtlety and complexity are not relevant, and the very music that paved the way for current pop music is insignificant.

The ratings of this year’s Grammy broadcast were the highest in several decades. NARAS has to pay the bills, to be sure. It seems to me, though, that part of this windfall needs to go towards keeping quality music in the ears and eyes of the public.





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