Music critics are hitting the wall. After decades of meticulous diatribes against the annual Grammy Awards and its subservience to mainstream fare, exhaustion is finally setting in. Some will remember culture writer Bill Wyman's angry rant against the Grammys' years of poor decisions (Best New Artists: Evanescence, Maroon 5, Hootie & the Blowfish, etc.). Others will recall former Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis's decades-spanning takedown of the awards show beginning in 1958.
But now, following last night's selection of mega-hit superstars like Eminem, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, the crushing weight of the Grammy Awards' longevity has become too much.
Sure, most critics were pleased with the nomination of indie rock-favorites Arcade Fire for Album of the Year. But the group's likely defeat to other, bigger acts is taken as a foregone conclusion. "Sure they'll lose out to that infinitely more deserving Katy Perry album," Spin magazine's Steve Kandell writes. "But hey, free hors d'oevres at Clive Davis' place!" The Boston Herald's Jed Gottlieb is slightly more defeatist. "Tell Arcade Fire ... not to invest in trophy cases. It looks to be another boring, mainstream awards season."
Waving the white flag of surrender, New York magazine asks the American public a simple question: "Is it worth complaining about the Grammys anymore?"
While there were the usual Bronx cheers, they were nearly drowned out by the crickets. The awards have been a joke for years, between the lame nominees and bizarre eligibility dates that have aged-out albums up for Record of the Year. ("Empire State of Mind"? Awesome, but so 2009.) They're amusing to read about, sure, but do you still care enough to get annoyed and/or excited? And are you invested in the results: If Florence and the Machine beats Justin Bieber for Best New Artist, will it be mind-blowing or shoulder-shrugging?
Unfortunately for critics at New York magazine and elsewhere, the self-serving notion that the Grammy Awards are irrelevant and induce "crickets" fails to live up to reality. If anything, the awards have become more popular in recent years. As Scott Collins at The Los Angeles Times noted earlier this year, the previous Grammy Awards were a huge success, with nearly 26 million viewers, a 35% increase from the previous year. Critics (for good reason) may be tired of complaining about the Grammys but they're not necessarily on solid ground when calling them irrelevant. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift will continue to win Grammys, and viewers will continue to watch: a formula the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences wholeheartedly embraces.