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why i hate the grammys

Every year in February, there is one cultural event that Americans look forward to with about three quarters as much as gusto as they do the Super Bowl. This Sunday night event is the annual Grammy awards, the pinnacle of American pop music – the night where musicians from every single genre come together to honor themselves and each other. A weird jury somehow picks out the best of the best in everything from pop music to rap to Latin music and all that’s found in between. I’ve always imagined that it’d be something like the prom if famous musicians were all in a metaphorical high school. Anyway… kids get to stay up late to watch their favorite singers bear it all, parents are happily dazzled by performers they’ve never heard of and in true suburban fashion, everything is neatly wrapped up by 11 PM.

The Grammys are a pretty overrated American ceremony that I have come to dislike more and more as I get older because they’re so fake – the most beloved stars get the most awards, there’s one token “weird” performance and everyone can’t get over how [great/awful] [insert pop songstress] looked.

Like most people I know, I don’t own a TV. I usually get suckered into Super Bowl parties because of the food or some weird halftime performance, but I’m generally apathetic towards the Grammys. I am a shameless consumer of pop culture and love music, so the Grammys are always something I’m kind of upset to miss but not enough to actually seek out a television.

Basically, I started disliking the Grammys when I was about 14 because I realized that the “academy” of judges hardly ever (until now) rewards the musicians who actually deserve it – the ones who aren’t on MTV and whose touring schedule most likely prevents them from attending an event in Los Angeles on a Sunday night, but whose music speaks to a generation. As much as I love pop culture, I’m an even more shameless indie music snob. Sorry about that. I also dislike the Grammys because of the way the academy thinks it has an awareness of what’s going on in modern music..

Then something weird happened that made me really hate the Grammys for good. In 2011, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, one of my own picks for the best record of the year, won Best Album of the Year at the Grammys. Although anyone with half an ear to the ground can tell you that the influx of hipsters into mainstream society has also brought indie music to an unparalleled spotlight AND Arcade Fire sold out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row in 2011, when one of my favorite bands won such a mainstream award, I realized that things had changed significantly. Indie music was here to stay. As much as I was happy that Arcade Fire was rightfully recognized for their talent, I was also a little scared to lose something I hold so sacred to the people that cheered when Eminem’s name was said during the nominations for best record of the year.

This year, I avoided the Grammys in silent protest but had to pay attention when Adele and Bon Iver won so many awards. In my world, these musicians are the crème de la crème. I know they’re about as mainstream as it gets, but the root of my music snobbery is an undying appreciation of talent, so my love for Adele is deep and only surpassed by that of Bon Iver. I was authentically happy to see the academy recognize the most talented acts of our generation (besides Fleet Foxes, of course). But as I read on, I was authentically fed up with the Grammys for thinking that they’re onto something new by giving Bon Iver the “Best New Artist” award. Bon Iver is far from “new”, just as I’m sure Nicki Minaj and Skillrex aren’t “new”. The band also won the “Best Alternative Album” award, which makes sense if you’re a grandma from Idaho who only listens to Top 40, but in the context of alternative music, Bon Iver is just the very tip of the iceberg.

On another hand, I’m happy Adele got all the recognition for her massive, amazing talent. Her performance of “Rollin’ In The Deep” blew me away, but as the cameramen shot to Rihanna happily applauding at the end in support, I wanted to scream “don’t you know she’s been awesome for three years now?”. She even won two Grammys for her first album, although it seems like everyone somehow forgot that.

Then there’s always the token “weird” performance. When Lady Gaga first arrived on the scene, it was her. It’s pretty much continued in that fashion until this year, when Nicki Minaj stepped up to the plate. I like Nicki Minaj – I think she’s a pretty badass rapstress and can hold her own with the likes of Kanye and Lil’ Wayne pretty well. I like how nuts she is, and that she’s so unabashedly from New York. But this performance is just downright strange. I get it on the “I’m making art” level – a la Lady Gaga splurting fake blood at the VMAs – but the concern with making it so “original” didn’t really pay tribute to Nicki’s talent.

Enough. I don’t mean to be so negative. There were some highlights to this year’s awards. Most specifically, I enjoyed Jennifer Hudson’s astounding cover of recently deceased Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” for its understated qualities. It’s as though J. Hud was showing true respect to a diva that helped shape her own voice in a respectable and classy way – and isn’t that the point of the Grammy awards, to really honor the talent in music?

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