Complaining about the Grammys is the fun part
By GARY GRAFF
February 21, 1990
Grammy bashing is one of the easiest and most popular sports in the music world.
Jethro Tull wins the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal act category? Gimme a break! Give it to Metallica
Tina Turner beats out Tracy Chapman, Melissa Etheridge and Toni Childs with, of all things, a live album? Geez, all
the Grammy voters must own Chryslers!
So it goes. Every year there’s a new complaint about the Grammy Awards, a new point of controversy. (The 32nd annual
Grammy Awards ceremonies will be broadcast tonight from 8-11 on CBS, WJW-TV Channel 8 locally.)
The critics lambaste the generally conservative group of winners, and because the Grammys inherently honor commercially successful acts, there are usually a few groups of fans upset their favorites didn’t get the trophy.
If Don Henley wins Album of the Year for “The End of the Innocence,” you can be sure there will be grousing from those
f a i thful to Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Fine Young Cannibals or the Traveling Wilburys.
And if you want to make a winning wager, put your money on thrice-nominated Bette Midler to scoop up a couple of
Grammys and boil the blood of those in the rock ‘n’ roll community.
Understand this: So far as the Grammys are concerned, there will never be a ceremony where everyone walks away happy
The closest we’ve come to a consensus was Michael Jackson’s record-setting eight awards in 1984, and even then some complained perhaps that was too much.
Awards shows by nature breed controversy and contempt, and you won’t find a producer who wishes it were otherwise. The bickering and battling is the fun part, the intrigue that brings viewers back year after year.
We don’t watch to applaud our TV sets as Aretha Franklin wins her annual Grammy; we’re waiting for the moment we can yell and curse at the screen and say to our friends the next day “Can you belieeeeeve… ”
To the Grammys’ credit â€” a phrase that seldom comes from the critics’ corner â€” the recognition of various types of music has improved over the years.
Let’s not forget the Grammys virtually ignored rock ‘n’ roll during the ’60s; the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops are among those who have never received a trophy
And though things improved slightly during the next two decades, the ceremonies were more likely to cite such artistic
lightweights as Christopher Cross (1981) and Toto (1983) than to honor more adventurous artists. Things are slowly improving, however.
Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which administers the
Grammys, says an aggressive membership recruitment campaign in the past three years has attracted hundreds of young music makers, swelling the NARAS membership from about 5,000 in 1985 to more than 8,000 today.
This influx of professionals presumably counters the academy’s more conservative tendencies. And it has resulted in an increase in nominations for on-the-edge acts such as Metallica, Public Enemy, Living Colour, Queensryche, Soundgarden,
Young MC and Faith No More.
New categories also have been popping up with regularity, including the recent additions of hard rock, heavy metal â€” the two are separate categories this year â€” rap and new age.
Also under consideration, says Greene, are new categories for dance music, world music, house music and postmodern/alternative rock, which would include such groups as R.E.M., Talking Heads and the Pixies. However, Greene cautions Grammy watchers to be patient, citing 1970s disco as a music fad that disappeared and took the category with it.
“You can make a mistake by jumping too quickly,” Greene recently told the Hollywood Reporter “I hate adding categories
So let’s accept these facts about the Grammys: Some performers or groups will always be slighted, we’ll always have
something to complain about; and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
That said, here are a few quick predictions for tonight’s ceremonies:
â€¢ A big night for Bette. It’s just a hunch, but Midler has the kind of track record and high profile that may propel her over better-known rock ‘n’ roll nominees.
â€¢ Disappointments for Don. With four nominations, ex-Eagle Henley is the pre-ceremony favorite, but stiff competition
will keep him from collecting
â€¢ Satisfaction for the Rolling Stones as “Mixed Emotions” lands the British group its first Grammy (aside from a 1986
Lifetime Achievement Award)
â€¢ Displays of sentimentality with Grammys going to Mike & the Mechanics’ heart-tugging “The Living Years” and to the
late Roy Orbison, either on his own or as a member of the Traveling Wilburys
â€¢ And another Grammy for the Queen of Soul. What the heck, giving Aretha a trophy in at least one R&B category seems to be an annual rite, and a pretty nice one at that