Monday, February 12, 2007

Idle threat of the week

Last night, like they do every week, the panel of judges crammed into my palatial apartment to decide on who or what will win America's most talk-about weekly award.

There was a movement to watch the Grammys while we deliberated. The idea was nixed because, traditionally, the Grammys stink.

Still we monitored the result and learned it was a good night for Mary J. Blige, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks.

Mary J. Blige winning three Grammys was probably the biggest surprise, since no one on the panel was aware she still existed. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the type of veteran, market-tested band that Grammy voters like to recognize but, by doing so, the voters are ignoring the permanent damage the Peppers have done to the record industry by merging genres -- like metal and rap, or funk and tragically bad poetry -- that, for the future of musical coherence, should have never been allowed in the same recording studio.

Granted the Pepper's mangum opus, 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, is sort of spectacular, bloated and ridiculous as it is, and deserves the many-platinum status it achieved. But -- and it pains us to say this -- that was 16 years ago. Ever since then the Peppers have been defined by rampant recycling of their own worst instincts and the occasional Tom Petty song they rip off while forgetting to give credit.

The Dixie Chicks, who led the pack with five trophies, were the most inevitable and interesting winners. Interesting because, consider this: They were a popular country act who lost almost all of their country audience after making negative comments about President Bush during a concert in England three years ago. Then, via a slick marketing campaign that played up their anti-Bush, first-amendment rebel credentials, they were able to move a respectable two million units of their post-controversy album. But their concert tour flopped and no radio format currently plays their music. Leading us to believe those who bought the album, for largely political reasons, either never listened to it or listened to it once and decided there was a reason they weren't country music fans. Meaning the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has just given five Grammys to a high profile album no one listens to.

None of this should matter because the Grammys should not be considered a relevant or prestigious award. Unlike the Oscar's, where one could make the argument that the best picture of the year might well be the best movie released in that certain year, the far smaller barrier to making records and releasing music assures that is never, ever true of the awards the Grammys gives out.

The people know this and that is why, last time around, the Grammys lost the same night ratings' battle to American Idol. Nevertheless, the press coverage of the Grammys has seemed to be on the upswing over the last decade.

This might just be a function of everything garnering more hype due to the rapidly increasing media platforms hype can emanate from.

Still, any attempt to legitimize and over-promote a fancy looking trophy that has no legitimacy outside the few thousands folks lucky enough to be in the major label penthouse of the record industry is an idle threat of the highest order.

Last night the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences were the real big winners. Although they only won one award -- Idle Threat of the Week for February 5th through 11th -- it is the only notice that means something.

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