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Opinion: Why the modern Grammys are destined to Fail

By: Danny Sedlazek
The 54th Grammy Awards, held Sunday, February 12, were the 2nd most watched in the history of the event. Even with near-peak, that same audience is about the size of three and a half episodes of the weekly Middle-America comedy Modern Family.
You’d expect the generation which relies on MTV to pick everything from the “Hottest Rappers in the Game” to “Top 40 prank videos” would clamor to an event that names the “best” figures in pop music faster than Rick Ross to a McDonalds when his fridge is empty. But this couldn’t be farther from the case. In fact, for an event that panders so much to the 15-25 year old demographic as the Grammys do, the awards garter as much attention as another Lindsay Lohan movie.
And before you try to argue that the Grammys don’t pander to that age range, Nicki Minaj (oh we’ll get to her later) and Chris Brown had the two longer performances: each individual longer than the Etta James and Whitney Houston tributes combined.
And as far as failing, when given a random sample of high schoolers, the majority didn’t watch the event, not out of boycotting or any sort of concrete reason, but out of pure apathy.
“Basketball was on. Maybe it wasn’t I would’ve tuned in,” said Lewis Werts, and this was probably the most solid reasoning I got.  “I was in the other room” was the surprisingly honest response I got from Kaipo Allen. Then again, the aforementioned are both juniors, and 17-year-olds are far less impressionable than younger kids. Yet even the freshmen didn’t seem to bat an eye at the Grammys.
“I had some sleep to catch up on,” replied freshman Ben Drew. “Maybe if they had some more diverse acts performing. It was like, you either got the 80 year old Beach Boys or Nicki Minaj whacked out on something. There was no real middle ground.”
This was a bold claim, yet at some level he was right. Sure the biggest pop star in the world, Adele, performed alongside the only living Beatle who matters, the Etta James Tribute was amazing (but wasn’t particularly relevant), and one of the few rock bands people actually still care about played, but 29% isn’t exactly a passing grade.
The awful performances reached a crescendo when Young Money’s very own plastic-banshee Nicki Minaj took center stage to debut her new song “Roman’s Vacation.” Unless you’re Jay-Z, debuting a rap song live has historically never turned out well; their finicky vocal levels and multi-tracking lead to a performance unreflective of the final product. Needless to say, a song involving shriek-vocals and much multi-tracking would go over poorly regardless of who debuted it, but Nicki had to take it one step farther by performing a faux-exorcism live, complete with an awful The Exorcist parody and background dancers dressed as a church choir. This performance, along with the awful film The Last Exorcism, should put a cork in the stream of exorcism-pop culture references for a while.
Then again, at least there were more awards presented than performances, something that can’t always be said about the show.
So if the Grammys faltered in their live acts, at least the awards were on point, right? Well, for the Grammys, I guess. Given the selected nominees, the majority of the most deserving artists won (with a few glaring exceptions). However it’s no secret the Grammys have been a joke for the past 30 years.
There were suspect choices in the past (the Beatles’ epic “Eleanor Rigby” getting beat out by some one-hit wonder is a notable flub) but for the most part, the first 20 years of the Grammys served their purpose: picking out the best in pop music for that year. However, 1981 marked the year when the Grammys started to become the laughing stock of anyone with their head on straight.
Ever heard of “Christopher Cross”? I doubt it. This country one-hit wonder swept the 4 major awards (Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year), beating out Pink Floyd’s ‘”The Wall” and “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra. These horrible choices continued throughout the 80s, coming to a head when the infamous Milli Vanilli won best new artist. Ever since then, the Grammys is more of a glorified train wreck than deciding factor.
So, were the 54th Grammys awful? Not when judged against precedent. A select few good performances, Adele sweeping every award that matters, and David Grohl’s acceptance speech were all moments too good for my cynical mind to ever picture happening during the Grammys.
Yet in the end, the entire award show came down to record sales. Do you think Adele would’ve won half as many records as she had if “Rolling in the Deep” wasn’t played close to a million times an hour? I severely doubt that.
I was discussing the awards show with a good friend of mine, John Savage, who summed up this year’s spectacle perfectly:
“The Grammys are now what the VMAs should be. Now if we only had a show that’s what the Grammys should be.”

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