Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I stopped watching the Grammys many years ago, because of how purely commercial it had become. Even the yearly event itself is driven by money. The program (specifically who gets to perform) is based on which performers the producers believe can provide the biggest ratings draw and not necessarily who has created the best art. The two are often not one in the same.
So I was pleased to hear about American music great Herbie Hancock- one of my favorite musicians of all-time- walking away with the evenings big prize- the award for Album of the Year. He was recognized for the album River: The Joni Letters - an exploration of the work of Joni Mitchell. In the process, he apparently has pissed off a lot of Pop critics who wanted the top prize to go to troubled singer Amy Winehouse, or to rapper Kanye West. Let them whine!
This seems fitting for Herbie, because he has been crashing the gate so to speak for his entire career. He has never been a conformist, and seems to live on "surprise", pissing off critics, and going against the common perceptions held by those in the music biz....basically ruining people's day and not giving a damn.... just like Sunday night.
Rarely does the National Association of Recording Arts.... recognize "art". I recall the great Donald Fagen & Co. winning the top prize a few years back... but typically performers are awarded for cookie cutter fluff. At least that has been the case for the last decade or so. So it's good to see someone recognized for actual musicianship.
Perhaps the Grammy's & the voting group suffered from some form of temporary guilt. Perhaps even the Grammy leadership is beginning to recognize how shallow the event has become. But I doubt that Herbie's award was a watershed moment indicating any kind of change... it was just a hiccup. Unfortunately money, & not art, will always drive the Grammy Awards.