The Grammys suck. It’s a pedestrian sentiment, to be sure—often uttered by jaded pop culture enthusiasts irked by mainstream-leaning award shows. Despite their obvious cynicism, these detractors aren’t without merit.
If the point of an awards show is to celebrate the work of a particular art form, surely the giving parties must adequately represent all worthy nominees.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Year in and year out, serious music enthusiasts are often left scratching their heads when the nominated are announced. A simple Google search reveals a slew of incredulous forum posters making such articulately refined statements as, “I can’t believe Katy Perry was nominated for Best Album. Can she even sing without auto-tune?!” and “There is just so much fail in that list.”
Fair statements, to be sure. If we’re really talking about the best albums released in 2010, most of the works nominated by the Grammys are far from worthy—save for Arcade Fire, an absolutely glaring example. More on that later.
But what most Grammy contrarians completely fail to recognize is their residing completely outside the realm of the show’s target audience.
The purpose of mainstream award shows is simple: Cater to the populist demand, not popular demand. There’s a distinct difference.
People at odds with Perry’s numerous Grammy nominations fail to realize her skyrocketing popularity in the ranks of the mainstream has been a methodical ploy. Most people aren’t aware that Perry began her singing career as a Christian songstress, as pure and moral as they come. Quickly realizing there’s no money in virginity, Perry dropped the Jesus shtick, wrote a song about bi-curious capriciousness and began accentuating her rack as often as possible.
What happened next? Dolla bills, son! And more applicably, Grammy nominations. It’s the name of the game. The big question isn’t “This is so wrong! Why is this happening?” The question is, “Why do you care? And why won’t you stop talking about it?”
For those who value music as a legitimate art form reserved for contemplative human expression, Perry is the antithesis of all they hold dear. So why are they so irked by her multiple Grammy nominations? As aggravating as it may be, the Grammys are what they are: a materialistic celebration of a voraciously depraved industry. For the serious music devotee, the award shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.
And then, a screaming comes from across the sky: Arcade Fire win Album of the Year! In what is surely a most unprecedented occurrence, a seemingly obscure indie rock band swoops in and steals the award from Lady Gaga’s bedazzled grasp. Hearing Barbara Streisand stumble to pronounce something as simple as “The Suburbs” proves even Babs was completely dumbfounded by the upset.
Hey! We thought the Grammys were pointless! What happens when a band like Arcade Fire wins the most prestigious award it offers? Does this mean we can’t like them anymore? Or perhaps Katy Perry isn’t as bad as we thought—maybe she’ll play Pitchfork this year?
The answer to these questions is hard to pin down eloquently, so suffice to say: it’s all horseshit. It doesn’t matter that Perry is nominated for Best Album at the Grammys because the Grammys are not a barometer of taste. By the same token, Arcade Fire’s big win is also entirely inconsequential. They were the same band on Sunday night that they’ve been their entire career.
They’ve always been great. This year, mainstream music did them a solid and recognized it. That’s pretty cool. Don’t ruin it with inane speculation.