I have no beef with the Grammy nominations this year. Hell, I don’t have beef with them most years. While the nominations may not always represent my musical tastes, the whole purpose of an organization like the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences is to back-slap. Sure, I could bitch, but what purpose would it serve? It’s why the award winners, presenters and performers always seem to be either the pop icon of the moment (a recent development considering how rarely the big pop stars of the Eighties and early Nineties won awards) or an aging legend (see: Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant, Steely Dan).
This year’s crop of nominees is as edgy as Grammy has gotten. While the nominees aren’t totally under the radar, it’s interesting to note that some of the year’s biggest stars either got shut out or were surprisingly underrepresented (2 nominations for Usher, 2 for Justin Bieber, 1 nomination for Susan Boyle, 0 nominations for Ke$ha). While the year’s alpha-male (Eminem) and the biggest country success story (Lady Antebellum) were nominated, there were also lots of nods for artists who aren’t dead-center in the public conscious. This presents a golden opportunity for Grammy producers (including Ken Ehrlich, whose book from a couple of years back made it incredibly clear that he plays favorites) to put their money where their mouths are and base the show around showcasing a variety of music and not just using the show as an opportunity to showcase the same artists who are on every other music awards show over the course of the year.
Journalist David Wild took to his Twitter page to ask for suggestions for this year’s show. Here’s my suggestion-well, my suggestions. First of all, present more damn awards. People don’t only watch award ceremonies to see performances and production numbers (see: The Academy Awards). Granted, the show is about music, but there are people like me who actually enjoy seeing awards presented, particularly in light of the fact that I’m pretty sure the Grammys are the only major music awards show that does not notify the winners of their victories prior to the telecast (or at least the pre-show). Second-spotlight new or under-the-radar artists. Remember what I said about golden opportunities? People burn out on seeing the same 10 artists perform every year. Thank God Beyonce and Kanye aren’t nominated this year. As much as I love ‘Ye, he doesn’t need to perform on the Grammys EVERY year. Same goes for Alicia Keys (please resist the urge to book a performance of “Empire State of Mind”) and U2. I realize the name of the game is ratings, which is fine. Give three or four performance slots to the big artists-Eminem, GaGa, Lady A and maybe do a Bieber/Drake performance or something like that. Maybe you drag in a legend or two-have a Tom Petty or Neil Young performance (shit…has either of those artists performed on a Grammy ceremony before?). Space them out so casual music fans aren’t compelled to channel-surf. Oh, and keep Katy Perry away from the mic. Have her present something.
Cultivate new legends-give the other acts a chance to shine. There are great live acts represented in this year’s nominees-Cee-Lo Green, The Black Keys, Mumford and Sons, Esperanza Spalding, Florence and the Machine, B.o.B., El DeBarge, Miranda Lambert, The Roots, Jamey Johnson. None of these artists have gotten a lot of TV coverage (well, except for The Roots, who are on TV every night). Be creative with pairings…as much as I hate the Black Eyed Peas, Grammy did a medley with the BEP, Franz Ferdinand, Los Lonely Boys and Maroon 5 a few years back that was a stroke of genius considering none of those acts had reached any level of media saturation yet. Be creative. Music fans who are expecting another show of fake-scandalous moments and lame performances will be pleasantly surprised, and although casual music fans might not tune in the same way they’d tune in with an all-superstar lineup, there’s a good chance that those who do will be turned on to an act they haven’t heard before and will either head out to a record store or log on to iTunes and make a purchase. Don’t underestimate your audience. The first time I ever saw or heard Melissa Etheridge or Sinead O’ Connor was on the Grammy Awards. Those performances turned me into a fan.
If nothing else, the Grammy producers need to look over at the American Music Awards (a show that tanked in the ratings when it aired last November, Bieber frenzy and all) and do the exact OPPOSITE. They’ll be better off for it.