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.
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.
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.