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The Shammy Awards
February 2003
by Dustin Pangonis

The 45th annual Grammy Awards are coming up this Sunday, something I'd normally have at least a passing interest in as a music fan. True, I have never actually come away from a Grammy broadcast thinking it was worthwhile, but you can count on a few pleasant surprises, like the token nominations and awards for Beck and Radiohead.

But this year was marked as the last straw before the awards were even broadcast. I took one look at the list of nominees and immediately decided to boycott. I can even sum up my new loathing of the awards in two points:

1. Avril Lavigne is up for five Grammys.
2. Wilco are up for none.

At this point, you have all the info you need. You may choose to stop reading (I very nearly stopped writing), or you may continue and allow me to expand upon my disgust.

It may seem extreme to boycott the Grammys based on those two points. As horrible as that situation may be, it's only one of the esteemed National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' many, many terrible decisions. But I think it's the first that's been so bad and so symbolic as to make me realize everything I truly hate about these awards.

First and foremost, you would want and expect an awards show to honor quality in it's field. And if they can't judge artistic merit, the committee can at least represent what music was popular and important in a given year. This must be deceptively simple, because the Grammys manage to fail at both, picking the worst music to nominate, and giving out awards that seem dated and embarassing five years down the line, if not the Tuesday after the show.

Let's highlight that Avril/Wilco deal. Yes, Avril Lavigne is one of the bigger new pop tarts out there, but that's not justification for a Grammy. You wouldn't go around giving awards to, say, the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears (both who have received nominations but no awards – thank God for small miracles.) But, as many records as they may sell, I haven't seen many critics extolling the virtues of "Sk8r Boi", which somehow got a nod for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

So Avril is up for five awards. Yet Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", which is, without exaggeration, the strongest candidate for most loved record of the year by critics everywhere, is totally snubbed out. While not a sales juggernaut, it was on the radar, from VH1 and Rolling Stone down to tons of indie publications. Would it have killed Sting to lose one of his nominations to let someone current get a nod?

The Grammys have never been hip to what critics were listening to (it took several years them to even acknowledge popular music and award a rock record "Album of the Year"), but this year is particularly bad. Aside from the token "Hey-we're-hip-look-who's-up-for-an-award" Beck nomination, critics' favorites are ignored. And forget music hipsters - the Grammys don't even care enough to crack open a Rolling Stone that came out before 1982 to see what music is hitting the scene.

Speaking of outdated artists polluting the nominees sheet – the "Best Male Rock Vocal Performance" shows this sickness more than anything else. As much as I love some of these artists, we did not need a category comprised of David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, and Bruce Springsteen in 2003. This blatant inability to get with the times is one of the hardest things to deal with when it comes to the Grammys.

Then again, the Grammys have never been known for their great, hip decisions. Jethro Tull's victory over Metallica for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance is the stuff of legend. But when you take into consideration some of the past "Album of the Year" recipients (Tony Bennett Unplugged in 1994, a Bob Newhart comedy album in the show's second year, Steely Day two years ago, Toto in 1982), this year's field consisting of the Dixie Chicks, Eminem, Nelly, Norah Jones, and Bruce Springsteen almost seems... no, it still sounds horrible.

There are a million other tangents I could go off on, but I'd have to revise the article the night after the show and add in the newest wave of stupidity. I do have to say, though, that the nomination of Bowling For Soup's "Girl All The Bad Guys Want", which includes the line "I wanna be sedated/All I wanted was to see her naked" deserves a mention, win or not. It's the first song I've ever downloaded on MP3 and deleted without finishing at least once.

Let me sum up how the Grammys are going to go for you: the nominees are particularly weak this year, and the wrong people will win 95% of the awards. The choices will be mocked endlessly in coming years, and chances are great that Avril will win at least one.

Go listen to your favorite albums-of-the-year instead of watching the Grammys honor people who haven't released relevant music in decades. You will save yourself a few hours and maybe cost them a few points in the ratings.

(Dustin Pangonis is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine.)

Grammy Awards website
Wilco website
Avril Lavigne website

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