The Grammy’s: Speaking to Us, or Speaking for Us?

taken from Popsugar

During the 2012 Grammy Awards, host LL Cool J channeled his inner theorist and asked the world a crucial question: “How do we speak to this time?” As Jacques Attali states in his book, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, “Music is prophecy,” and it forces the question: Do the Grammys speak for us and our generation?

The Grammy Awards ceremony pretends that it represents and appreciates the musical world, but there seems to be a central motive behind the awards show. By picking a handful of music’s most popular – or “hip” – artists, nominating them in the same categories, having them perform, and then continuously playing their music throughout the show – and in a slew of Target commercials – the Grammys are using repetition to clutter our brains, silence us, and ultimately sell us the same product packaged in a different cellophane wrapper.

What is problematic, is that the current generation is content with this repetition. Music’s role has changed; it no longer has power. Since what sells ultimately controls what the masses hear, it is impossible for musicians to “speak to this time.” In Noise, Attali quotes Gianfranco Sanguinetti, stating that “capitalism has become ‘a terrorism tempered by well-being, the well-being of each in his place,’” which questions whether capitalism is threatening our freedom.

Adele sheepishly accepting a Grammy–taken from Hello Magazine

Pop singer Adele, who won six Grammys, including Album of the Year, is being looked at as the new voice of this generation. Perhaps she deserves it. She sings well, she doesn’t use any stunts or gimmicks during her performances, and she’s down to earth and personable. However, it is unfortunate that she is only another product of repetition. During the 60 Minutes interview that preceded the Grammys, Anderson Cooper explained that Adele experiences “near crippling stage fright.” She fears that she will ruin her fans’ love for her songs by performing them live. The pressure to deliver and present herself in the way she is perceived is overwhelming, and it forces her to execute repetitive performances – ones that live up to the album.

Furthermore, it seems we are being silenced by the presence of Adele, along with other Grammy winning (supported) artists, such as Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. The reason they were part of that exclusive handful of artists that the Grammys constantly transmitted to the viewer’s eyes and ears, was because they were the best selling and most popular artists of the year. First, listeners are made to believe that these are the only artists of importance, and secondly, when Target is selling all (only) of the Grammy winning/nominated albums in its stores, listeners are made to believe that this is all that exists. There were seventy-eight Grammys awarded in all, but only nine were awarded on television. Groups like the Christian McBride Big Band get the recognition and honor of a Grammy, though they don’t receive the exposure that the Grammys potentially offer, as they do for Adele and the others. But since the Christian McBride Big Band doesn’t have t-shirts available at Target, they are kept hidden away from the public; the consumers. This does threaten our freedom, because it is narrowing the spectrum of what is available to the masses, therefore keeping them immobile, zombified, and at Target.

Obey Target–taken from Cleverly Simple

The Grammy Awards is not only speaking for “this time,” it is spoon-feeding, bathing, and wiping it. It is an advertisement under the guise of a music awards show. By presenting the masses with a list of “best artists” and “best albums” of the year, which are conveniently available at Target, the Recording Academy is brainwashing the listeners. Musicians are incapable of speaking to “this time,” because no one is listening – or the the musician is cut off.

  1. Very thought provoking piece. I think some more specific examples of why Adele is a product of commodification would really drive your point home a little harder, but it is well paced and intriguing as it is.

  2. Beth martinez said:

    Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!! Fantastic!!!! Out of the 5 nominees for the big kahuna award, I think Adele is deserving. The only other person I would have wanted to win was Gaga. I could stab myself in the head every time I hear Bruno Mars or Katie Perry. & really, who was the 5th person? I can’t even remember.
    I watched the 60 minutes story with Adele too. She’s endearing. No, she’s not made of gimmicks, & I think it suits her.
    Lots of people have an enormous amount of talent, who are passed over. But, you’re right, we are brain washed by “the system”, when an artist comes along who has the record selling package, whether they can sing or not. Maybe this is what enables Adele’s fears. Taylor Swift is a perfect example. She sucks live, but she keeps on winning!!!!

  3. gsmccabe said:

    I really enjoyed this piece- the part about Target really intrigued me. One of the things I remember the most about the Grammys was that during practically every commercial break there was a commercial for the one and only Target. And it wasn’t just a plain-old Target commercial, with loads of colors and families of various races- it was a commercial pushing one of the Album of the Year Nominees (usually Adele or Katy Perry or Rihanna). I don’t think Foo Fighters (who were also up for the album of the year award (and should have won)) had any ads throughout the entire telecast.

    And where the hell was Rebirth?

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