Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grammy Awards: No Losers for Album of the Year

This article is dedicated to Vijith Assar, who has a greater appreciation for music than anyone who I have ever met. He writes about music and his website is

In the last two decades, the top award at the Grammys, Album of the Year, has been given to older artists who may or may not have truly deserved the award. Rock & Roll started in the 1950s and had some amazing artists in the 1960s and 1970s, but many of those artists lost awards to other talented artists of the time. It seems like in recent years, the Grammy Awards have tried to right many past wrongs by giving Album of the Year to make up for the mistakes of the past.

In the 1990s, the older artists who won Album of the Year did so against really weak competition, so the feeling of them robbing younger artists was not felt the way it was in the 2000s. Quincy Jones beat MC Hammer for the year 1990. Eric Clapton truly deserved the award in 1992 for the album that included the song Tears From Heaven (a beautiful song about the loss of his son). Tony Bennett won for the year 1994 against extremely week competition (probably the worst year for the Grammy Awards). Santana won for the extremely successful album Supernatural for the year 1999. The only major robbing of the decade was Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind winning for 1997 over Radiohead’s masterpiece OK Computer. Can anyone name a song by Bob Dylan from that album, or even from the 1990s?

What really started with the honoring of Bob Dylan for 1997 turned into a decade of truly undeserving artists winning in the 2000s. Unlike in the 1990s, these artists faced strong competition by younger artists who may have to wait decades to rob a future artist for Album of the Year. For 2000, Steely Dan won the award over Eminem’s second album. This was Eminem’s year and the best album that he had ever made. For 2004, Ray Charles won, but many people feel that he won for two reasons. First, he died in 2004, adding to the desire to honor him. Second, Jamie Foxx had just starred in the excellent film Ray, about Ray Charles’ life. For 2007, Herbie Hancock won over strong competition from Kanye West and Amy Winehouse. Does anyone remember a song from the Herbie Hancock album? This win for Herbie Hancock was a tragedy of older Grammy voters choosing to honor the older artist over the deserving ones. Many people felt that after losing Album of the Year in 2004 and 2005, Kanye West would finally receive the award for 2007. Maybe he’ll get his award in 30 years. It was the night of Herbie Hancock and the best album of 2007 that no one purchased.

When I saw the nominees for 2008 and noticed that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss were nominated for an album together, I knew that Grammy was being Grammy again and set to honor another undeserving piece of junk over deserving artists. I was right. Coldplay’s most successful album and the new album by Radiohead must be ignored so we can honor Robert Plant, who never got proper acknowledgement for his work with Led Zeppelin. I have an idea. How about instead of honoring his recent album, they just give the 2008 Album of the Year to the album Led Zeppelin IV and give Record of the Year and Song of the Year to Stairway To Heaven? If we are going to honor him, we should just be honest about it. He deserved Album of the Year for Led Zeppelin IV, not for the current album.

When I saw the nominees for Album of the Year for 2009, there were no older, undeserving artists. Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas, and Dave Matthews Band were all nominated for attention grabbing albums. Maybe the Grammys will give it to Dave Matthews because he is the oldest of the nominees, but he’s not in irrelevant territory. Maybe Beyonce or Taylor Swift will battle it out. Maybe Black Eyed Peas will win for their feel-good album that makes you want to dance. Or some voters may feel that Lady GaGa should be honored for being the pop singer who can sing and actually write her own songs. We will see, but the most important thing about this award is that these are the artists who truly made an impact in 2009. When future generations look at the Album of the Year award for the year 2009, they will find an album that was actually listened to by society in that year. The award will actually honor one of the best albums of the year and not be used as a lifetime achievement award.


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