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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscars vs. Grammys

Sean Penn: You damn well better acknowledge Mickey Rourke in your speech!

I usually don't watch the Oscars because I'm just not into movies. Going to a theater feels like paying $10 to watch television for a couple of hours. But you only get one channel. And the snacks aren't free. And you have to sit among strangers, many of whom might be talkative and rude. That's just not fun for me!

I only saw 3 films in the past year - Sex & the City, Religulous, and The Wrestler - but I wanted to see Mickey Rourke win an Oscar, so I caught the last 30 minutes of last night's broadcast.

As I watched, I just kept thinking... Wouldn't it be great if the Grammys were as respected as the Oscars? The Oscars are the unquestioned authority of what's good in the world of film, while the Grammys are derided by fans, music critics, and musicians alike.

Sometimes I like to imagine what the Grammys would be like if they were run by the Oscar people. Here are some changes the Grammys could institute to make themselves more like the Oscars.

1. Slash the number of categories
When there are 110 categories, you're giving out way too many awards. Do we really need to recognize the Best Hawaiian Album or Best Norteño Album? Having so many categories cheapens the awards. Think about it: Most actors would kill to win a single Oscar in their lifetime - or even just a single nomination. With the Grammys, it's not a good year for superstar artists unless they get at least 8 nominations. People freaked out this year when Alicia Keys got only 3 noms instead of her usual 6 or 7. And I love the guy, but how can people take the Grammys seriously when Weird Al Yankovic has 9 career nominations? If he had that many Oscar nods, he'd be Meryl Streep!

Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle with the coveted Grammy for Best Native American Album, 2001

I'd cut the number of Grammy categories by more than 90%, from 110 to 7. Obviously, this would never happen, but allow me to dream.

These would be my categories:
Best Album
Best Song
Best Male Performance
Best Female Performance
Best Group Performance
Best Producer
Best Music Video

This kind of arrangement means that all genres would be competing against each other - rap against country against metal. And it would be truly special to win one of those gramophones!

2. Allow indies to have a real shot

Slumdog Millionaire

The best thing about the Oscars is that a little-known film like Slumdog Millionaire can come out of nowhere and snag the top prize. The Grammy voting bloc is so dominated by major labels that small-label artists have virtually no shot of winning. No, Radiohead doesn't count. I'm talking about critically acclaimed indie acts like Vampire Weekend, M83, Crystal Castles, Frightened Rabbit and Deerhunter. The way to change this is to dramatically increase the percentage of indie representation in NARAS, either by stripping some old-timers of their voting privileges, or adding a new wave of indie voters. Somehow, the Brit Awards have managed to figure it out - MGMT, Santogold, and Fleet Foxes all earned Brit nominations this year.

3. Don't vote for the dead guy
The best way to guarantee yourself a Grammy Award is to die. The Grammys never vote against dead people. Everyone from Roy Orbison to Ray Charles to Warren Zevon have triumphed largely due to the sympathy factor.

Oscar voters must be cold-hearted bitches, because they aren't swayed by this kind of sympathy. Heath Ledger's win yesterday was only the second time in history that a major award was given posthumously. They prefer to give the awards to the folks who actually deserve them. What a novel concept!

4. Have respectable people present the awards

We actually respect these presenters!

This is a small thing but it goes to the respect factor. I loved how the Oscars had five legendary actors/actresses present Best Actor and Best Actress. Having these giants give a personal comment on each of this year's nominees really built up the award so that we as viewers believed we were watching history as the envelopes were opened.

Meanwhile, the Grammys will let damn near anybody present their big awards. I will never forget a cocky, yet-to-accomplish-anything-in-his-career Usher presenting Album of the Year in 1998 and introducing nominee Bob Dylan as "Bill Dylan." I don't even blame Usher - he shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near that podium. Only the true giants should be giving out these awards.

The Grammy makeover
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the 2009 Grammy Award nominees, if they had been Oscar-ized using these suggestions:

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
Santogold, Santogold
Dear Science, TV On the Radio

Skinny Love, Bon Iver
Courtship Dating, Crystal Castles
Blind, Hercules & Love Affair
Gobbledigook, Sigur Ros
Oxford Comma, Vampire Weekend

Modern Guilt, Beck
Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne
Play, Brad Paisley
Paper Trail, T.I.

New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War, Erykah Badu
Rockferry, Duffy
Youth Novels, Lykke Li
Robyn, Robyn
Santogold, Santogold

Raising Sand, Alison Krauss & Robert Plant
Microcastle, Deerhunter
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
Dear Science, TV On the Radio

Raising Sand, T-Bone Burnett
Fleet Foxes, Phil Ek
In Rainbows, Nigel Godrich
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros & Flood
Dear Science, Dave Sitek

Who's Gonna Save Your Soul, Gnarls Barkley
Run To Your Grave, The Mae Shi
Eraser, No Age
House of Cards, Radiohead
Pork and Beans, Weezer

It's true that a lot of these bands are not household names. But they would be, after the press built them up for months leading up to the nominations, and after the press wrote all kinds of features about them after the nominations were announced.

I think this would've made for much more fascinating Grammy Awards ceremony.


Anonymous said...

You must be the only person ont he planet who buys the idea that the Academy Awards only go to poeple who actually deserve them -- you should ask the Academy for a lifetime pension for making that statemnt in print! Really! What planet are you living on? The Academy is and always has been notoroius for giving Oscars to people who are ill (John Wayne, for one notorious example), whose "turn" it is ("so-and-so has been nominated three times without winning, and yeah, CYZ was much, much better, but he's young and will have lots more chances " -- that kind of logic), who are well-liked in Hollywood for whatever reason, who simply are glamour-pusses who made a movie where they didn't wear make-up, etc. Time for a reality-check. All awards are subject to these problems and thus suspect. And how can they so often choose a best director and then give the best movie award elsewhere? Very silly to declare a "best" anything, anyway.

Scott said...

Those kinds of errors strike me as few and far between at the Oscars. But they happen every year at the Grammys. Sheryl Crow and John Mayer win numerous awards just because people like them.

BeckEye said...

While Anonymous' rant has some good points, the Oscars are still, essentially, about recognizing quality work in the industry, not box office sales. The Oscars are about movies. The Grammys are NOT about music. They exist to reward the acts who are most popular, or who have sold the most units.

BeckEye said...

By the way, Lisa Rinna didn't present - I forgot to tell you that after I saw your comment on my blog. She's always at the Oscars for either reasons unknown, or hanging out on the red carpet as part of E!s coverage.

Scott said...

Ok, that makes more sense. Down with Lisa Rinna!