The 2018 Grammies: Missing the Point

It is a given these days that the Grammy Awards telecast has devolved into a not very interesting TV variety show. And that most of the really interesting awards are given out off-camera the day before. Entertainers rather than musicians have become the focus of the entire affair. And while the annual grumbling about who did and did not deserve their award is nothing new; trends over the past several years are growing downright embarrassing. Bruno Mars over Kendrick Lamar? And Leonard Cohen winning Best Rock Performance?

In the They-Got-It-Right category, War on Drugs deserved the Best Rock Album award. The same thing applies to The Weeknd winning Best Urban Contemporary Album. The great New York City jazz label Mack Avenue Records deserved to win three Grammy Awards for records by Cecile McLorin Salvant, Billy Childs, and Christian McBride. And it was great to see Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit winning Best American Roots Song and Best Americana Album.

In the audiophile world, old friend and audio engineer par excellence Jim Anderson won Best Surround Sound Album for Jane Ira Bloom's Early Americans album. Another dear friend, Ms Amanda Sweet of Bucklesweet Media had a hand in helping Pablo Zeigler win the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. And it was good to see the win in the Best Engineered Album: Classical by the Reference Recordings release of Shostakovich's Symphony No.5 and Barber's Adagio with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, engineered by Sound Mirror and released on Reference Recordings First!, also won for Best Orchestral Performance.

The reality is that the America First practice of the Grammys as regards classical music is an embarrassment, and leads to a lack of respect from music lovers. All five orchestral nominees were American orchestras. Three of the five Opera recording nominees were from American companies, and the winner was American. The Choral winner was American in both composer and conductor, the chamber winner American, and both Best Classical Compendium and Best Contemporary Classical Composition went to an American composer recorded by an American Orchestra. In fact, four out of five nominees for Best Contemporary Classical Composition were American.

It's a wonder that Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine, let alone the other international classical awards, grant awards to American artists, composers, and companies. That so few actually win those other awards may be related to the fundamental imbalance created by the Grammy Awards.

Jancuso's picture

Thanks to Jason for recognizing conductor Manfred Honeck and The Pittsburg Symphony's Orchestral Performance win. The engineer for the recording, Mark Donahue, was also honored.
It must be noted that the prolific jazz label Mack Avenue is from the great city of Detroit.

Anton's picture

The Grammy is an award given by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences...with some new marketing name. "Foreign" recordings can get rewards in their own country.

The Academy Awards show specifically designates films as "foreign." Perhaps the Grammy award can glom on to that?

Caring what happened at the Grammy awards is like giving a crap about who wins The Bachelor or who is the final Survivor.

Record of the year, 1968...Up, Up, and Away by the 5th Dimension.

Nominees were:
Jimmy Webb for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" performed by Glen Campbell
Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt for "My Cup Runneth Over" performed by Ed Ames
Bobbie Gentry for "Ode to Billie Joe" performed by Bobbie Gentry
John Hartford for "Gentle on My Mind" performed by Glen Campbell

How many of those do y'all still spin?

latinaudio's picture

...on vinyl (of course) and on my iphone.
Music to last.

JoeinNC's picture

“ the Grammy awards is like giving a crap about who wins The Bachelor or who is the final Survivor.”

Well put. To be fair, though, 1968 wasn’t all that bad. Sgt. Pepper got album of the year, and Sam & Dave and Aretha Franklin went home with awards.

Glotz's picture

Nuff said.

Supperconductor's picture

These are giant infomercials intended to sell product. Same with the “Academy Awards”. All the industry participants are well aware of this. People who create content DO follow these events closely, not so they can make better films/music, but so they can learn what is marketable. I don’t think any of this is “bad”. They call it show “business” for a reason. Thanks to the internet and services like Tidal, anyone can discover truly great content.

spacehound's picture

...that the entertainment business is so fond of.

And Jason's comments about it mostly being a USA only process is absolutely true. Not that awards from USA centric backscratching exercises are of any great interest to non-US music creators or their customers.

BTW: You want possibly the best classical orchestra in the world? Try 'The Academy of Ancient Music' based in Cambridge UK :-). Though it was even better under Hogwood than it is now. They only use instruments that were available when the music was composed, though some of them are modern copies.

markaschumacher's picture

… not quite sure how Mack Avenue Records of Detroit manages to get described as a “great New York City jazz label” – must have something to do with being in flyover country…

donlin's picture

Good jazz albums, must be a NYC label.

Lincolnmat's picture

Just to be even more pedantic, Mack Avenue Records is based in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Point Farms.