For the first time in many, many years, I watched the majority of an awards show telecast. It wasn't the Grammys, because the Grammys suck. No, it was the Oscars that held my interest, and not just because they were smart enough to have Jon Stewart host. It was simply because nearly every movie nominated in every major category was actually good, if not downright great.
What do you get when you watch the Grammys? An out-of-touch voting panel telling you that U2 released the most vibrant and captivating album of the year. That a slate of contenders like Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, Rascal Flatts, Fall Out Boy and Ciara represent the pinnacle of creative endeavors in the music of 2005. In that environment, Kanye West's confidence didn't appear misplaced. He truly was the most interesting performer of the lot. And he lost to U2 and Green Day.
Compare the list of Oscar winners with film critics' end-of-the-year lists. You'll see a lot of similarities. Yet only one of the albums nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy West's Late Registration made it into the top five of the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll (an annual tabulation of nearly 1,000 national music critics' picks.) Imagine if the Grammys featured that list, and Kanye was duking it out with M.I.A., Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney and Fiona Apple (this year's top five) for an award. He might not feel so confident then, huh? Oh yeah, Kanye won 2005's Pazz & Jop just like he won 2004's when College Dropout beat out Brian Wilson, Loretta Lynn, Franz Ferdinand and Green Day. (U2 came in at No. 8.) That's another Grammy show I wouldn't mind seeing.
This year's Oscar telecast wound up being a low-rated one. Despite the presence of Jon Stewart, the Academy's subliminal decision to honor a bunch of excellent if low-profile films didn't cause crowds to huddle around the television. And so what? Such mindless pandering to Middle America's least adventurous impulses is a big factor in the decreasing profitability of music and movies. Awards shows need to be less of a cultural barometer of how far we've sunk and more of a highlight of how exceptional these art forms can be.
Hopefully, Hollywood has figured out that it's possible to create lasting and important works that appeal to small numbers of people. Simultaneously, by raising the bar of quality for their splashy hits (see: Chronicles of Narnia, Batman Begins … hell, even The 40-Year-Old Virgin was more substantial than The Emancipation of Mimi), they're developing a new generation of moviegoers who respect the form as both art and entertainment. The music business, has a long way to go to get to that level.
THREE BLIND ITEMS
First up: Which genre-defying local act is in the process of getting signed to Epitaph? (It's almost a done deal, and it's not who you think.)
Second: Which long-troubled downtown nightspot will soon be transformed into a full-fledged large-capacity (think thousands) music venue?
Third: Which local venue really needs to get their shit together when it comes to scheduling bands? Despite said venue's honorable dedication to local music, they're getting more of a reputation for clusterfuck scheduling and constant last-minute additions to bills.
Speaking of complete non-professionalism, I got an interesting e-mail by accident. It was from a member of a local band to a bandmate. Said e-mail was a request for this bandmate to start notifying local media of this band's shows. Thing is, instead of sending it just to the bandmate, the sender goofed and sent it to, well, the local media. But the best part was, after gathering up four URLs, the sender proclaimed, "Well, I think I done enough here `sic` and I need to let you take it from here. `Name removed`, if you could take on the responsibility of advertising our gigs on a full time basis, I would greatly appreciate it. With creating promotional materials, managing the LLC legalities and taxes, getting gigs, making out the set lists (!!hate it) and trying to learn my all these new songs, my plate is too full right now."
Now, I'm all for delegating responsibilities, but aside from the grammatical and punctuation errors in this little note, I must say I detect a note of hostility. It's understandable, what with all the work involved in "managing the LLC legalities and taxes." Uh, what? Who the hell starts a band in order to be a lawyer and accountant? How much money could this band possibly be making that they're already at a point that requires such meticulous bookkeeping? If it's still so freaking difficult for them to make out set lists, I can't imagine they've gotten very far. So, two words of advice to you striving young bands: One, worry about writing songs and being good before you worry about the legal ramifications of how to split a $25 bar tab. And two, double-check where your e-mail is going before you send firstname.lastname@example.org