Rewarding consumerism: Grammys focus on record sales, not quality or innovation

Rewarding consumerism: Grammys focus on record sales, not quality or innovation

by Dave Morain

Wednesday marked the 44th Annual Grammy Awards, a ceremony celebrating the music industry’s biggest and brightest stars.

Another slap on the back for the record companies, another slap in the face of your average listener.

Every year it’s the same thing: Big-name performers, big new artists, and bigtime controversy. Big, big, big. The formula never changes, and this year proves to be no different.

First, they roll out the red carpet for the fresh new artists. Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, and India Arie, (all of who prove that human cloning is possible) head this year’s crop. I guess after the backlash against dancer-singer-performers the music industry in search of the prototypical young female with actual talent.

Oh, and don’t forget the looks. Any of these three could grace the cover of Maxim, once again proving that style outweighs substance every time.

In her defense, Keys is extremely talented, crooning like Billie Holiday while tickling the ivories like that guys from “Shine”. This won’t be her last time at the Grammy Awards.

Next on the bill are the incumbents, the music industry’s golden children: Britney, Christina, *NSYNC, etc. They turn out to smile for the cameras, play a song or two, and win a handful of awards. Of course, everyone but them deserves the acclaim.

After all, none of them wrote any of their own music, leaving the actual artistry to some guy in a soundproof room with a synthesizer down at the Smash Hit Factory to do all the work.

Finally, the real musicians arrive. Giants like Dylan, McCartney, Clapton, and Jagger show up to look upon this commercial circus much like a scientist watches lab rats run through a maze.

They lived rock and roll when it meant something, setting to chords and beats the social and political concerns of a youth culture not so disconnected from our society and each other as the one in which we reside today. You can almost see the pity in their eyes every time the camera pans past their faces.

What exactly do this year’s Grammys recognize? Talent? Rarely is that the case, though a few brilliant artists somehow slipped through the cracks (Elton John, Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, etc.).

This year there are definitely a couple of heavy hitters shuffled into the cast of perfect white teeth and breast implants, most notably U2 and Bob Dylan.

Critics have hailed U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” as a breath of fresh air, harkening back to the old equation that “strong lyrics + strong instrumentals = good.”

Realizing that this article will be printed post-award ceremony; my advice to you is to take a long hard look at the winners from Wednesday night.

Think about what they have to say, about how their music affects you. Do they speak to you? Do they really have something to say?

Don’t go spending money on a CD by a “proven” Grammy Award winner. Anyone can win a Grammy if they sell enough records.

The truly talented are content with making music for their fans, not for the industry.