The recent Academy Awards made me think about the Grammys and that made me think about how ridiculous awards shows for artstic endeavors are. I haven’t paid attention to the Grammys in years (I think they happened fairly recently, didn’t they?), because the judging always seems flawed. They snub a band one year in favor of some token artist and then the next year that same band who was snubbed becomes the token to make up for the year before. After years of stupidity, I just gave up. But I’ve come to realize that the flawed process of picking winners isn’t the biggest problem. There are two bigger ones. First, it’s picking winners in something where there is no winner or loser that’s measurable or even reasonably knowable. Second, and most importantly, it promotes a cult of celebrity by rewarding an individual for something that is much bigger than themselves.
Tom Petty once said something to the effect of, “I don’t think there’s such a thing as best in music, but thanks for thinking I’m one of the best,” when accepting some kind of award. He’s right, there’s no “best.” It’s kind of like voting. Just because we elected him, doesn’t make the President the best person for the job (if you disagree, just look at the presidents we’ve elected, the current president in particular!). So the idea of “Best Rock Album” or “Best Vocal Performance” is a misnomer. What they really mean is “favorite,” not “best.” There’s nothing to measure. As a matter of fact, trying to measure music is harmful.
The second problem is that it promotes the cult of celebrity rather than a celebration of music. It focuses on the performer or writer or producer rather than the songs themselves. And the songs are what’s important. The artist is just a channel. They participate in the art of music much in the same way we participate as listeners at the other end. The Grammy doesn’t go to the song or the album, it goes to the singer or writer. But the song is what matters. The song is what we share. The singer is just another person that we or may not connect with if we met him or her. The singer (or writer or whoever) isn’t what we connect with. We connect with the song.
So, because I love music, I hate the Grammys. I don’t care who won Best Album. Last year, my favorite album was Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t nominated. The year before, it was Velvet Teen’s Out fo the Fierce Parade. I’m pretty sure that went even more unnoticed than the Death Cab album. I have my favorites, because I listen to and care about music. I don’t need any award show to validate my choices with the artificial title of Best. And I definitely don’t care what any of the musicians are wearing.