The Grammys: You Win Some, You Lose Some
It’s been at least 20 years since I sat in front of a television and watched the Grammys, and this year was no different. Award shows in general just don’t capture my interest, but I did channel surf a few times to check in, and I’m glad I was able to catch the Elton John and Miley Cyrus duet. Please don’t think I’m being snide or sarcastic, but that girl can really sing. She made “Tiny Dancer” sound like something special rather than just another recycled FM radio classic from the ‘70s.
At a three-hour Premiere Ceremony hosted by Paul Schaffer and streamed rather than televised, awards for over 70 “not ready for prime time” categories were handed out.
That’s where you would have found all of the music that falls under the roots music umbrella, along with classical, jazz, comedy, spoken word, children’s music, dance, gospel, Latin, reggae and … wait … New Age. I thought that genre went away after Y2K. There were so many awards to give out that there was only time for a handful of performances, like this one by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, who won for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Was I the only one surprised to learn that Leonard Cohen was a rock star and Aimee Mann is a folkie? Bruce Springsteen lost to Carrie Fisher for the spoken word category, the best children’s album came from Lisa Loeb, and there are actually still awards for surround sound albums, packaging, box sets, and liner notes. That’s a little weird considering a major sponsor of the show is one of the world’s largest music streaming companies.
In the evening, after the big celebrities were shown parading down the red carpet, almost 20 million people tuned in to watch the important awards. That sounds like a lot of people, but it turns out that it was a 24% drop from last year’s show and the lowest viewership since 2009. People have been blaming everyone including Hillary Clinton, James Corden, Bruno Mars, Sting, and the month of January. Personally, I think it’s Bono’s fault.
That’s Lorde, the New Zealand native whose Melodrama was nominated for Album of The Year. Thought you’d might like to see her because you wouldn’t have seen her on the award show. She’s a woman, and only the male nominees in that category were selected to perform solo. Ken Elrich, the producer of the show, explained it this way to reporters:
“These shows are always a matter of choices, and we know we have a box and the box gets full and filled up. She had a great album, album of the year is a big honor, but there’s no way we can really deal with everybody. Sometimes people get left out that shouldn’t, but on the other hand, we did the best we can to make sure that it’s a representative and balanced show.”
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow was asked by Variety about #GrammysSoMale — an online reaction to the low number of female nominees and winners (Best New Artist Alessia Cara was the only woman to take home a solo award in the main broadcast) — and had this to say:
“It has to begin with … women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level … [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”
Really Neil? Hit pause, stop, and rewind.
By Tuesday, Portnow was singing a different tune. After a huge backlash on social media and strong statements from many women both in and out of the music industry, he realized he didn’t “articulate” properly. He had a representative deliver a message to the media:
“[Sunday] night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards,” it read. “Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.
“I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought,” Portnow added. “I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.”
Neil … it might be time to step down.
You can follow me here at No Depression to get notified when I’ve added something new. Many of my past columns, articles and essays can be accessed at therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate and post daily on my Facebook page The Real Easy Ed: Americana Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed