In the Chicago Sun-Times, music critic Jim DeRogatis offers an answer. He begins with the early years of the Grammy Awards in the late 50s and explains how they evolved into what they are today. As he notes, the Grammys weren't always an orgy of commercial radio hits.
Established in 1958 as a reaction by conservative music-industry veterans such as Frank Sinatra and "Sing Along With" Mitch Miller to that raucous new scourge of rock 'n' roll, the Grammys have been wildly erratic ever since in fulfilling their stated mission "to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position."
Back in the day, mainstream successes like the Beatles and Bob Dylan gained scant attention from the Grammys. But that eventually changed:
Then the awards spent much of the '80s and early '90s trying to make things up to overlooked innovators -- showering accolades on Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few -- while subsequently slighting current developments such as punk, hip-hop and electronic dance music.
After this strange "looking back" period, the Grammys takes a turn for the better, argues DeRogatis:
In the late '90s, things seemed to improve, helped by an influx of younger members. (The awards are chosen by 16,000 professionals, ranging from music teachers to recording engineers, and from studio musicians to chart-topping superstars.)
And finally, that brings us to today, a period where the most celebrated musicians are the ones with the most star power. DeRogatis for one, isn't happy:
This year's roster of nominees is evidence the Academy is backsliding, reverting to honoring familiar names, commercial accomplishments and major-label hypes rather than independent innovators, and steadfastly refusing to change with the times -- or even acknowledge them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.