Don't Fear the [Grim] Reaper

Grimmys or Grammys

“It’s going to take a lot to keep this year’s Grammys from looking like the Grimmys. The good news for viewers is the blockbuster lineup for Sunday night’s Madison Square Garden show. The bad news for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammys, is that all the star power and glitz in the world can’t mask the pall of desperation that has overtaken the music industry in the last two years….

Granted, the recording industry has cried wolf for decades: Extended radio play was crippling the industry; home taping was crippling the industry; sales of used CDs were crippling the industry. Bootlegs, imports, dubbing decks — the perils were endless. And somehow through decades of complaint, the recording industry was racking up booming sales and profits that other industries could only envy….

The industry is still crying wolf, with the only difference now being that a wolf is vigorously gnawing at its innards. Unlike the boy who cried wolf, people aren’t ignoring the recording industry’s predicament: They’re just rooting for the wolf….

A rare situation exists today where Sony, as a member of the recording industry, is part of a lawsuit targeting manufacturers whose products make illegal downloads easy, one of which is Sony: The corporation is so cumbersome that it is suing itself. Meanwhile, in a belt-tightening move I’m sure we can all empathize with, Universal’s parent company, Vivendi, has begun selling off its corporate jets….

There may be no greater indication that the NARAS is in sad shape than the fact that its financial condition is a lot more interesting to write about than the music they’re hawking. So it has always been. If anyone thinks the U.N. is irrelevant, they should look at the NARAS’s record of consistently missing the boat on recognizing the significant music of its time….

In recent years the Grammys have made a desperate effort to become hip, embracing Beck, Eminem and other critical darlings as credibility poster children. It also has helped that with every passing year the Grammys introduce more award categories — from an original 26 in 1958 up to a record 104 this year — so that via blind chance if nothing else they’re bound to recognize some artists of substance, as long as they’re best-selling artists of substance. That 104 awards, by the way, isn’t counting Hall of Fame inductees (an elephant’s graveyard of albums and artists the Grammys ignored in their prime) or the 41 categories in the three-year-old Latin Grammys (whose first televised ceremony last year was a ratings flop, yet one more Grammy woe). Wait a few more years and they’ll probably give each of you a Grammy just for watching the show….

The Record of the Year category has historically been an embarrassment. Given even a modicum of hindsight, was Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ really the best that humanity came up with in 1998? And what era would choose to be remembered by Christopher Cross’ ‘Sailing’ or Olivia Newton John’s ‘I Honestly Love You’?

This time the Record of the Year choices include Norah Jones’ fine ‘Don’t Know Why’ and catchy, if not especially memorable tunes by Nickelback and Nelly. But the nominees also include “A Thousand Miles” by lightweight waif Vanessa Carlton, and Eminem’s ‘Without Me.’ Eminem has done some OK stuff, but ‘Without Me’ is to music what spackling is to oil painting.” [MSNBC]

Sorry for the longish excerpt, but MSNBC articles tend to disappear and this one was just too emperor-wearing-no-clothes perfect to let it dissolve totally into the ether without a trace. I was going to bold the best parts of it, but there were just too many. You should still read the whole thing for yourself, print it out, sign it, and send it to your legislator. This is the industry they want to protect??

Rock on, Jim Washburn!

Side note: who will take Michael Greene’s place this year and chastise their (now non-) paying customers on national television? Or will they come up with an even more bone-headed move? Maybe they’ll team up with DC Comics and have a superhero fight downloaders during the broadcast!

[The Shifted Librarian]

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