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Why I Didn't Watch the Grammy Awards

by Roger Wink, VVN Music

Last night, I did something that I haven't done in 48 years.  I didn't watch the Grammy Awards.

It has been one of my yearly rituals since 1970 and, since starting VVN Music twelve years ago, it has been a requirement for reporting the winners and events, especially from the standpoint of veteran artists.

This year, though, something was different.  I didn't feel that familiar excitement and need to watch every second of the program, anticipating big performances and the announcement of the winners.

One of the main reasons is that, over the years, the Grammy Awards ceremony has gotten less and less to do with actual awards.  In the early days, every award was presented during the show but, then, there were only 22 categories at the first awards. By a few year's ago, that had bloated to over 120 different awards before it was consolidated down to just short of 80 trophies this year.

It's impossible to present all of those in one three or 3-1/2 hour show but, yesterday, a full 90% of the categories were presented in the afternoon with only nine saved for the main network broadcast.  I studiously watched the three-hour afternoon stream and reported the winners via VVN Music and our social media accounts, including the many veteran artists that took home prizes.

With a 3-1/2 hour program and only nine awards, that translated to one award every twenty-five minutes.  They could easily add a few more and still keep a descent pace to the program.

On top of the lack of award presentations, numerous genres were totally left off the main show.  No rock, R&B, folk/blues/Americana, jazz, gospel or classical category made it to CBS.  With the four majors (Album, Record, Song and New Artist), that left room for only five other awards with two of those being in rap and one each for pop, country and comedy.

Then there is, to me, the biggest problem.  The Grammy Awards program used to be all about saluting and presenting the best music of the past year ("year" being from the Gramorian Calendar of October 1 to September 31).  Take, for example, the performers on the 1984 ceremony:
  • Donna Summer (Pop Vocal Performance Female)
  • Big Country (New Artist, Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group)
  • Bonnie Tyler (Pop Vocal Performance Female)
  • Chuck Berry with George Thorogood & Stevie Ray Vaughan (Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • Eurythmics (New Artist)
  • Phil Driscoll (Gospel Performance Male)
  • Albertina Walker (Soul Gospel Performance Female)
  • Linda Ronstadt (Pop Vocal Performance Female)
  • Walter Charles (Musical Show (La Cage Aux Folles)
  • Herbie Hancock (R&B Instrumental Performance, Instrumental Composition, Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group)
  • Oak Ridge Boys (Country Performance by Duo or Group With Vocal)
  • Sheena Easton (Pop Vocal Performance Female)
  • Wynton Marsallis with Orchestra and Quintet (Jazz Instrumental Performance Solosist, Jazz Album Group, Classical Performance, Classical Album)
  • Irene Cara (Record, Album, Album of Original Score, Pop Vocal Performance Female)
Every one of them was nominated for at least one award for the year.

Now, look at last nights performers:
  • Kendrick Lamar, Bono & the Edge (Lamar had seven nominations)
  • Lady Gaga & Mark Ronson (Gaga - Pop Solo Performance, Vocal Album)
  • Sam Smith (No nominations)
  • Little Big Town (Country duo/group, Country album)
  • Jon Batiste, Gary Clark Jr., Joe Saylor (tribute to Fats Domino & Chuck Berry)
  • Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee & Zuleyka Rivera (Record, Song, Pop Duo/Group)
  • Childish Gambino (Record, Album, Traditional R&B Performance, Urban Contemporary Album)
  • P!nk (Pop solo performance)
  • Bruno Mars & Cardi B (Mars - Record, Album, Song, R&B Performance, R&B Song, R&B Album)
  • Sting & Shaggy (No nominations)
  • DJ Khaled, Rihanna & Bryson Tiller (Khaled - No nomination)
  • Eric Chruch, Marren Morris & Brothers Osboure (tribute to victims of 2017 Las Vegas Shooting)
  • Kesha, Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, Bebe Rexha (Kesha - Pop Solo Performance, Pop Vocal Album)
  • U2 (No nominations)
  • Elton John & Miley Cyrus (No nominations)
  • Ben Platt (tribute to Leonard Bernstein) (Historical Album)
  • Patti LuPone (tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber) (No nominations)
  • SZA (New Artist, R&B Performance, Urban Contemporary Album, Rap Sung/Performance
  • Chris Stapleton & Emmylou Harris (tribute to Tom Petty)
  • Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid (Song, Music Video)
Along with five tributes spread throughout the evening which included non-nominated music, there were five where the artists weren't nominated in any category.

The Sam Smith, Sting & Shaggy, DJ Khaled and U2 performances seemed to be nothing more than promotional pieces for recently released or upcoming albums.  None were released before September 31, 2017, so they weren't eligible.  They couldn't wait to have them perform next year IF they were nominated?

Then there is the Grammy's favorite artist to create memorable moments, Elton John. Elton and Eminem, Elton and Lady Gaga and, now, Elton and Miley Cyrus doing a 45 year old song that wasn't even nominated for a Grammy when it was first released.

Throw in the Andrew Lloyd Webber tribute (again, a promo for his upcoming box set?) and you have a good half hour of the show that could have been filled with nominated songs.

It also doesn't seem like I was the only person to tune out.  Early ratings show it as, possibly, the lowest rated Grammy Awards show ever.

It's time for the Academy and the producers to rethink the format of the show and return it to a showcase of the year's music, it's nominees and the actual awards.