Sam Rosean reckons it’s about time we got over it.
It’s a story as old as time, the Grammys release their choices for the year, and we all tell ourselves it’s their final breath, and how much their relevancy has vanished. Of course, when the latest indie music fan says the phrase, “relevancy has vanished”, it implies the Grammys were ever that relevant to their brand of music, like some sort of alternative history where Christopher Cross, the soft rocker, didn’t win in 1981, but instead the award was shared between King Crimson and Glenn Branca. Of course, the Grammys have also bowed down to the accepted greats of “good” music, giving album of the year to Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Carole King, but in recent years they’ve still paid their dues to critically adore artists, with Beck, Daft Punk, and Arcade Fire receiving the award. And while these are nice moments for those of us who desperately clutch to our signed copy of Funeral everywhere we go, I’m curious why we cared in the first place.
The Grammys are a show made for the people who watch it, the moms, and young kids who have their own sense of what “good music” is, and a completely different perspective about the merit of certain artists. While I got upset reading the blog post that Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wasn’t nominated in 2010, a million more people were cheering later that month when Taylor Swift took the stage for her win. I question why I expected the self-proclaimed “abomination of Obama’s nation“ to win an award on such a big stage, one I never even cared about until it didn’t validate my taste. There’s a feeling I had in my stomach that my understanding of Kanye as the misunderstood genius should be shoved down the mouth of twenty million viewers. I told myself that in twenty years we’d still be writing think pieces about post-Kanye rap, and Taylor Swift would be relegated to the oldies station to slowly disappear from the collective consciousness.
Now I mean no offence to Taylor Swift fans, or even to parade my fandom of Kanye so much. I simply mean that my perspective on music, and I think many a passionate music fan’s perspective, is that music should be appreciated on a level of influence, on lasting potential, and experimentation. But the Grammys never proclaimed that this was their intention at all. The Grammys have always said Album of the Year in a very literal sense. The voters tend to choose albums that they perceive as defining the year in the here and the now. Perhaps in twenty years we’ll be telling our kids we were there when Good Kid M.A.A.D City came out, but in 2013, ‘Thrift Shop’ was the song we all knew the lyrics too, and the song every meme was set to. It’s an album of the year, almost to a comical level in hindsight, as Macklemore’s pop relevancy sinks like a stone (just as he starts to make more ambitious music of course).
What we start to lose perspective as music fans, refreshing blogs late into the night for that leaks and speculation, is that music is most importantly a social idea. Music represents culture, and the ideas of a time. If those cultural paradigms disappear tomorrow, so be it, but today what people care about is the music that reflects those ideas. Turn up your nose at Electric Daisy Carnival all you want, but it’s the better reflection of youth culture in this time than your favorite Bandcamp punk band. Looking through Grammy’s album of the years you can see the culture of Middle America over its 59 year history, and in a way, that’s a much more interesting cultural artifact than any list of avant-garde albums that got a 10 on Pitchfork.