And the [insert meaningless award] Goes To...

As the Grammys wrap up and the Oscars announce nominees this week, I am considering the relevance of the modern "industry awards" in light of my changing perspectives of the music business in particular, and the artistic professions in general.  There has been a lot of derision heaped on this years Grammy Awards show, and rightfully so.  With a a couple of standout exceptions, it was pretty much a nightmare, and I'm not (just) talking about Taylor Swift's horrible off-key performance. 

I suppose I'm the only one who finds it vaguely hypocritcal to have had the (pretty good) rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" performed by Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli sold on iTunes, with the proceeds going to Haiti relief.  Nice, but how much did that whole spectacle cost?  They could have held the awards show in the Beverly Hills High School gym, and given the savings to Haiti relief.  It would have done a lot more good, and probably would have sounded better.

That aside, the Grammys  (and the Oscars and even the Dove Awards) are clearly the "industry" patting itself on the back.  And maybe they need it.  Clearly, the Grammys do not represent the best anyone has to offer in musical quality.  They do represent the best anyone has to offer in music commerciality, of course.  If anyone actually thinks that Taylor Swift put out the best album of 2009 is likely deaf.  But Taylor (whether or not her daddy bought her way into the industry as is widely speculated) is clearly marketable  - cute, peppy, putting out cheery, hook-laden three chord tunes.  So the "industry" did what it was supposed to do, and promoted one of its own to the pantheon of Grammy greatness.

I'd really love to know who comes up with the ill-advised pairings of performers and presenters at the Grammy shows.  Besides the train-wreck pairing of Stevie Nicks and Taylor Swift, there were some notable ones.  Could anyone have looked more uncomfortable than Placido Domingo standing next to Mos Def?  He looked like he was ready to jump off the stage.   Did anyone seem more out of place than Usher during the Michael Jackson presentation?  (Besides the fact I think he was singing a different song?)  Was it me, or did Roberta Flack seem not quite all there with Maxwell? And seriously, Jennifer Nettles should have gone home after "Who Says You Can't Go Home."  (I loved when Richie moved over to stand in front of her!)  And Justin Beiber was supposed to say something, right?  I did like the Elton John/Lady Gaga thing though, weirdly.

There were some good performances, of course.  Jeff Beck was amazing behind the lip-syncing Imelda May.  Not only was it an amazing performance, it was truly what Les Paul might have played, not Jeff Beck's interpretation of Les Paul.  (Slash, take some notes, sober up, get a haircut.)  Pink's performance was excellent - stunning visuals, great vocals.  (I could have done without the 5th Element outfit, though.)  Travis Barker was killin' it (when you could hear something over the audio dumps - thanks lil Wayne.) And Carrie Underwood surprised me by holding her own on stage with the likes of Celine Dion and Smokey Robinson.

The Grammys are clearly not very relevant to working musicians, a group into which I include church musicians who play every week without getting paid.  Anne Stewart made some excellent observations on on how the Grammys (and all the other "industry" awards) work.  But I may not completely agree with "...but not only is it stale musicially, it’s downright offensive to working musicians everywhere."  I don't take offense from it.  Just the opposite, in fact.  It's clear that many of the "big" stars are a short step above the no-talent hacks that populate the audition rounds of American Idol.  So maybe we ain't so bad.  As much as some people bemoan modern CCM, it's really no worse (and in many cases better) than modern Grammy-worthy material.

But alas, the Grammy's are behind us, and the Oscar nominations have been announced.  Since five industry-sanctioned flicks are not enough, this year's Best Picture field has been expanded to 10, because District 9 really needs a Best Picture nomination.  So when this year's Avatar Awards (sorry, I mean Oscar Awards) come up, we can have the conversation all over again. 

Below:  Yes, the Grammys best performance. 


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