Writers ensure manic Monday

By • Feb 12th, 2008 • Category: Columns

Everybody can stop holding their breaths and let out a gasping sigh of relief … err … disappointment.

The Writers Guild of America has agreed not to picket the 50th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10. And in doing so, the group has all but ensured that the worst day in music will go down as expected. It’s not the week of pre-bash coverage, or the actual broadcast. But rather, each year, without fail, the Monday after the Grammys are handed out is the worst 24-hour period for music, and arguably in pop culture.

By the time the early-a.m. commuters are sipping their grande, double, no-whip, soy, white mochas, there will be countless bulletin forwards circulating the Net bashing the Recording Academy’s selections. By lunchtime, the snobbish second-guessing will have reached a nauseating degree on counter-culture Web sites. Fanzines already will have begun plotting their next issues, picking the should-be winners and discrediting the bulk of the night’s big names. Then will come the text messages – “Did u c the Grammys? Totally lame” – followed by YouTube videos of guys brushing their angled haircuts out of their eyes before launching into web-cam tirades from their dorm rooms and parents’ basements.

If you think the backlash is tough in December and early January when every dude with an iPod and a blog critiques magazines’ “best of” lists, just wait until Feb. 11. Because now it’s not Q, Mojo, Spin and the like subjectively picking favorites. Now there are trophies involved, and that ups the level of importance and the amount of scrutiny.

Yet all the Grammy hating just seems a bit … obvious? … no, that’s not it … umm … stupid. And this year, the anti-Grammy lot has gone on the offensive even before the hardware gets given away.

A number of Web sites have published columns and criticisms in preparation for the Feb. 10 spectacle. From articles on such pop-culture outlets as The Bad and Ugly (“The Grammy’s Will Suck Even More This Year”), The Pitch (“Why The Grammys Suck”) and Prefix Magazine (“This Just In: The Grammys Will Suck”), the onslaught is rife with hypocrisy. Not to mention originality.

For forums that pride themselves on anti-establishment credentials and gobble up indie rhetoric like its fresh humus, there sure is a lot of attention getting paid to an event with a red carpet and E! News impromptu interviews.

Complaining about the Grammy winners each February is like living in Chicago and complaining about the snow. It’s going to a Thai restaurant and getting upset that there isn’t a hamburger on the menu.

Really, what do these people expect? The ceremony has been consistently debatable for 50 years, and it’s not going to undergo a drastic reconstruction of its credibility anytime soon. It shouldn’t have to. Music – as with anything artistic – is not qualified objectively. It’s fundamentally taste appraisals. And no gold-plated gramophone is going to change that.

Unlike a debate about sports, there is little statistical basis that the Academy could use to select its winners. It could belly-up to the dreaded dollar – the financial beast loathed by those major labels’ detractors – and take sales numbers into consideration. And in a way, it does.

Many of the nominees are, in fact, recommended by their record labels. It’s something that the selection committee doesn’t hide, boasting on its official Web site, “… record companies enter recordings and music videos released during the eligibility year which they consider worthy of recognition in the GRAMMY Awards process.” If executives are involved in the nomination process, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that highly marketable crossover artists such as Beyonce and Justin Timberlake are up for night’s top prize – Record of the Year.

What makes the post-Grammy complaining even worse, is when nominees have garnered both critical and commercial success – realms that in many cases are naively assumed to be mutually exclusive. These instances send those Monday-morning hecklers into a tizzy, and it’s a lose-lose one at that. If indie darlings Feist (Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) and Menomena (Best Recording Package) take home awards, it will spark an outcry for more such nominations. If they don’t, the same anti-mainstream babble will ensue.

Even if the disgruntled thrift-store crowd had gotten its wish, and the striking writers had caused many performers to boycott the ceremony – threats that for months had caused questions about whether the event would take place – there still would be complaints. When this year’s Golden Globe award show was canceled, film fans argued over corporate America’s obsession with making a buck. One such Entertainment Weekly reader questioned, “Why should everyone else be punished because of the greedy WGA?” An LA Weekly reader wrote, “I would like to see the struck companies hire ‘amateur’ scabs and really put these greedy, self-righteous unionizers out of work. ”

A Grammy cancellation would be more of the same. The people who hate the awards surely would leap out of their skinny jeans at an opportunity to bash their cancellation. Which means, really, that the Writers Guild of America didn’t guarantee the year’s worst day. It just determined that it would come in its usual form of bickering.

Is it Feb. 12 yet?

Northwest Herald, Feb. 1, 2007

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