If You Still Care About The Grammys
Once again the Grammys happened and once again I watched the show with a very detached eye while doing something else. Honestly, who can afford to watch this endless series of price distributions, star power demonstrations, and so-called performances-of-the-year? It was long and it was a mix of young and old, familiar and clueless, and I must admit my ignorance when it comes to mainstream music. if I am familiar with the big names, I am vaguely aware of some of the winners, because I can’t say I have spent a lot of time listening to Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R. or Dua Lipa.
It is funny how the music business works, there are some artists you have never heard about, the Lalah Hathaway or Kelsea Ballerini, and suddenly they are nominated for best R&B and country albums! But again, I don’t spend time listening to these genres. So why did I know about Leon Bridges and had heard of Kacey Musgraves in this case?
I often discover music accidentally, while driving and listening to some college radio stations, while watching TV and hearing the soundtrack of a new series. Of course, there are live shows, plenty of them, but LA has its little niches and they are quite distinct from each other. The artists you discover at It’s a School Night, the weekly night hosted by Chris Douridas, do not show up at the Echo in general, at a few exceptions, then there are the Troubadour crowd and the Roxy crowd, and so many others which rarely enter the Echo/Echoplex/Bootleg circuit. Dua Lipa, for example, did it’s a School Night, then the next time you hear about her, she is winning a Grammy. Of course, she is English, but this happens frequently, some artists are completely out of my radar because everything has become a niche. Still, I managed to see Janelle Monae and Anderson .Paak live and I still don’t know how it happened.
But why does my favorite college radio station plays Leon Bridges and not H.E.R. whereas they are both nominated for best R&B album? Why does it play Brandi Carlile and not Kendrick Lamar or even Lady Gaga? It’s because wherever you are and whatever you listen to, you are labeled ‘mainstream pop’ or ‘R&B’ or ‘rap’ or indie rock’, or… you get the idea, you are in a box and people don’t like to cross the boundaries of this box.
But for one night, boundaries disappear, the music world collapses as one, or at least there is a collapse between some artists…. who are streamed the most? …. who are the most connected to the Grammy world? I am still not aware of all the parameters which will get you there, but you have to be voted by voting members, but since the Recording Academy receives over 20,000 entries per year, this is a hell of a crazy and mysterious selection.
Last night, the Grammys were a mix of the new school bounding with the old school, Dolly Parton and Diana Ross reminding us what it is to be an icon while Lady Gaga trying to do everything she could to convince us she was the next one. Then there were the big absentees, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino whose only apparition was in an ad for a new Google feature, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Arianna Grande, who called out the show’s producer for misrepresenting her reasons for cancelling and attacked Cardi B on Twitter from home when she won Best Rap Album. Attention seekers are always boring to me.
Then, there were the invisible wins, mostly related to rock because rock doesn’t interest anyone anymore. Maybe I should tell these hundreds of bands I see at the Echo every week that they should give up on their Grammy dream if they have one. But, they are probably all hung up on a Beck dream, a man who was playing Los Feliz coffee shops 20 years ago and won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album last night. Because if there is a crossover artist, Beck is the one, the ancient part of my music world (I saw him a bunch of times at the Echo/Echoplex) walking among the Grammy legends, even though I didn’t care much about his last album.
The Grammys exist only to focus on a minuscule portion of what’s really happening in music, they are a magnifier on an overexposed elite and some lucky winners at the Spotify game, and that’s about it. We should move on as soon as they are over.