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Grammys Culture Tantrum

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

During awards season, I inevitably get asked, “What did you think of the Grammys?” This is met with some basic frustration every time. See, I am an awards season groupie. I live for the red carpet, the interviews between stars and late night hosts discussing nominations and wins and the endless stream of news analyzing, dissecting and celebrating film and television. And, of course, Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Ultimate Viewer’s Guide.

From the Golden Globes in January to the Academy Awards the last weekend in February, it’s the one time of the year when everybody in Hollywood is about everyone else’s business, sharing gossip, inside scoops and juicy stories about filming and/or someone’s “real” personality. I celebrate baseball season, Irish football season (which is pretty much a lifestyle), the Christmas season and, right about when my Seasonal Affective Disorder kicks in, the blessed, blessed awards season.

So what about the Grammys, then? If you happen to ask me if I was excited to watch them, like my roommate did on Sunday, or what I thought of them, like a friend did today, I will tell you, I don’t care. I didn’t watch. I don’t find them interesting. And frankly, I think the Grammys are irrelevant.

This is a bold statement to make, especially since I am (in addition to being a television major, which I stressed last week) a music major. I geek out over film and TV — where’s the musical love?

Easy. I love music. I love my music. I love my music collection. I love the radio, where I find new music. I love my friends’ music, where I tend to find new things. I love when friends send me music. I love to proselytize music, sending it to my friends. I read about it, blog about it, and complain when people don’t understand it. But honey, the Grammys ain’t about music.

I’m not saying the pop music flaunted during the telecast isn’t good. I love it. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum — I’ve got all the albums, and I listen to them. They are not the problem. The Grammys as an awards show is the problem, because, when it comes down to it, it isn’t really awarding anything an artist hasn’t already got. It’s a popularity contest, plain and simple. I’m not saying that’s bad, I just find it boring.

It’s generally accepted that the biggest winner of the year musically is the one who’s made the most money. I’m thinking Gaga and Perry, here. They had slam dunk years, along with people like Eminem and Rihanna. People everyone has heard of win Grammys. That’s the precedent. That’s why I don’t bother. The only reason to watch is to see musical performances, most of which I can just YouTube later of I hear they’re any good. Other than that, it’s just a parade of the obvious.

But not this year. This year, something happened that shook the very foundation of the Grammys. Arcade Fire won. Yes, the band named Arcade Fire, (which does exist, even if you’ve never heard of it). And not just anything, but Album of the Year. Which is a huge category, from what I can tell.

This has unleashed a storm of unrest. Here is a sampling of tweets from the last few days: “So, has anyone worked out who Arcade Fire are yet?” “Who even are Arcade Fire? I mean they can’t be that good if no one has heard of them. Silly.” And my personal favorite, “While arcade fire perform I will listen to some proper music on my ipod #katyperry.”

There is an outrage at the mere thought that someone who isn’t world renowned, someone who has flown under the radar, and even helped invent the genre and subculture of “indie” (shut up hipsters, I don’t want to hear it) could win Album of the Year at the Grammys. Even I was surprised.

But as the incredulous world has spoken out against such an event, appalled that the award was pulled out from under other such worthy stars like #katyperry, I point to Arcade Fire as the exception that proves the rule.

Last year, “The Hurt Locker” won Best Picture, beating out mammothly popular “Avatar.” Everyone in Hollywood congratulated themselves, picking the hard, less successful war movie for the top prize. No one griped that, since Avatar made a billion dollars worldwide, it deserved the prize. Its net gross seemed irrelevant, perhaps detrimental to its Oscar success.

Last year Meryl Streep, a total dark horse nominee for her role in the movie Doubt, won Best Actress at the Screen Actor’s Guild awards. She was so convinced she wouldn’t win she hadn’t even worn a dress to the ceremony. Everyone was ecstatic. But at the Grammys, the heavy hitters miss out on one award, and people are flabbergasted, even insulted. Which is why the Grammys are, in my humble opinion, irrelevant.

The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer. Stephanie DePrez can be contacted at sdeprez@nd.edu.