Can’t Blame Grammy For Targeting Younger Demographic

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davidbowiewhitedukeWell this year’s Grammy nominations have been announced, and as usual the list of nominees is underwhelming to say the least. But I refuse to join the chorus of Grammy haters who blow a fuse when their favorite artists don’t get nominated. The Grammys are really in the impossible situation of trying to please everybody, which as we all know means you end up pleasing nobody. Grammy represents The Recording Academy, whose mandate is to bring recognition to every little corner of the music business, and that means that every genre ultimately gets short-changed.

I give Grammy the benefit of the doubt because I think they get it right more than anyone could reasonably expect. Just in the past eight years Grammy has awarded Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Daft Punk and Beck as Album of the Year winners. I thought every one was a worthy winner, but it’s fair to say that other than the Mumfords, none of them was a very popular choice. In fact some of them were left-field candidates who were huge underdogs going in. So you can’t really say that Grammy is simply a popularity contest.

On the other hand, The Recording Academy’s other mandate is to see that the recording industry remains as strong as possible moving forward, and that requires remaining relevant to the younger demographic. And it looks like this year’s crop of nominees leans heavily towards that end of the bargain. Beyonce, Drake, Justin Bieber, Lukas Graham and Twenty One Pilots are all over the nominations list, and all are geared for the under-25 demo. That’s just the way it is this year, and I really can’t blame the Academy for making the long view their priority.

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I will say that Beyonce has a definite appeal beyond the young ‘uns, and that her album Formations is a landmark record deserving of recognition. There are a couple of tracks on that album that I really like, and it should easily win in the Album of the Year category. This year’s left-field candidate in that category is Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, an excellent album from an unusual country/Rock hybrid artist. But his chances of winning this year are almost zero; if he does somehow pull the upset I will eat this column.

Grammy loves to mix up the genres whenever it can, because as we all know, new musical styles are created when older styles blend together. That is the history of Rock in a nutshell. Grammy likes to have diverse artists playing together on the live broadcast, sometimes yielding spectacular results. But they also like to mix it up within the categories sometimes, like this year’s amazing Best Rock Performance nominees which include Alabama Shakes, Beyonce featuring Jack White, David Bowie, Disturbed and Twenty One Pilots.

Bowie’s Blackstar garnered four nominations, but not Album Of The Year, which I think was a glaring mistake. Somehow Bowie got nominated in both the Rock category and the Alternative category, which suggests confusion on behalf of the Academy. The Best Alternative Album is the highlight contest from my perspective, pitting Bowie and Radiohead against Bon Iver and Iggy Pop, a Clash of the Titans if there ever was one. But then, for Best Rock Album, the nominees were Blink-182, Cage The Elephant, Panic! At The Disco and Weezer, as if it was 2001 all over again, and as if “Rock” only meant loud, thrashing guitars. What a disappointment. If the Grammy people had followed Rocknuts this year they would certainly have known better. Maybe next year.

Photo credit: By Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as David Bowie) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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