The Grammy Awards aren’t that great. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences initiated the awards in 1959, ostensibly to recognize important or innovative musical artists. The Grammys certainly aren’t what they used to be. In reality the awards are just recording industry rubber-stamping for lucrative musical franchises.
This is not to say that all the artists who manage to make the nomination list are worthless, far from it actually, but the accolades associated with receiving the award are overblown. There is genuine talented represented on the list of nominees, just as there are innumerable musicians of equal, or greater, talent who will never have a chance at the nomination. The Grammys aren’t that great at creating a big tent of musicians from which to select winners.
The 2013 Grammy Award nominations were put out on Friday, but it would not have been difficult to predict many of the names on the list, as they are heavily promoted by their recording labels and played on the radio forty times per day in every market.
The big catch for nominees is the Record of the Year award, honoring a single track as the Academy’s choice for best song since the last gathering of industry bigwigs.
The nominees for Record of the Year includes Get Lucky, the super-catchy summer tune by French electronic musicians Daft Punk featuring Virginia Beach-native and Jay-Z affiliate Pharrell Williams. This is a great party song, but not necessarily inspired music and certainly not the highest level either one of these eclectic artists can produce.
Also on the auction block are pop rockers Imagine Dragons with their hit Radioactive, a song that can make non-rock fans nod their heads to an apocalyptic soundtrack. Good song, very strange music video.
Singer Bruno Mars, the quirky little Hawaiian vocalist with the fedora and the throwback sound, is also nominated for his lovey-dovey Police-inspired track Locked out of Heaven. The song is a lead single from the popular artist’s second studio album. It is a solid offering from the eccentric singer, but probably not quite Grammy Material.
Pharrell makes the list yet again, this time singing the hook for velvet-voiced crooner Robin Thicke and recently released rapper-slash-perennial inmate T.I. on the breezy Blurred Lines. The song gained notoriety, or perhaps infamy, when Thicke’s legal team filed a preemptive lawsuit against the family of R&B legend Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport music in relation to allegations of copyright infringement. The song is admittedly inspired by Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up, and Bridgeport has alleged that song borrows from Funkadelic’s Sexy Ways. Thicke and his cohorts aren’t that great at judging fan reaction, as the move against the two iconic musical acts provoked a strong backlash. This makes the selection of the infectious, but possibly illicitly constructed, song perfect for the Academy, as the Grammy Awards aren’t that great either.
The final nominee is Royals, by Lorde. The pop-critique by the 17-year old Kiwi newcomer is definitely the strongest song on the list. It is fresh and relevant and the young songstress delivers it with a deftness that belies her age.
So, those are the nominees for the 2013 Song of the Year, but people who actually care about Grammy nominations and awards will have to wait until February 2014 to see how the contest pans out. Or they could just choose to turn their radios off and seek out quality music on the Internet or satellite tuner, where tons and tons of non-commercial music reside. This may be difficult, as there are whole generations conditioned to just turn the radio dial until they find one of the seven commercial songs being endlessly repeated that they can actually stomach.
The younger generations have become increasingly untethered from the radio and the handpicked few that the Academy chooses as the best of the best. In this, the young are wise, because they have come to understand the essential nature of music better than their elders. They know that music is an intensely personal experience, and that choosing what music to consume is an intensely personal choice. When it comes to providing a quality selection that could honestly be thought of as the year’s best of the best, the Grammy Awards simply aren’t that great.
By Mark Clarke