Alex Webb comments on the restructuring/downsizing in the number of Grammy Award Categories from next year:
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has just announced a restructuring of the event’s awards categories, bringing them down from 109 to a mere 78. If you’ve ever tried to make sense of the Grammy Awards, this news may come as a relief.
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The jazz enthusiast’s first reaction may, understandably, be alarm at what this might mean for minority categories, but, in fact, rock and pop that have been most affected. Taking Pop, Rock, R&B and Rap together, their categories tumble from 28 to 14. Jazz has been trimmed too, and next year will have just four categories, down from six:
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
Best Jazz Vocal Album
Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
‘Best Latin Jazz Album’ and ‘Best Contemporary Jazz Album’ have been lost.
Whether these changes are a response to reactions to some of the surprise winners in this year’s (53rd) Grammy Awards is hard to say. In February music executive Steve Stoute, best-known for managing hip-hop artist Nas, took out a full page ad in the New York Times claiming the awards had “lost touch with contemporary popular culture”. He seemed particularly annoyed at the success of jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding: “How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win best new artist?” Stoute said.
Esperanza Spalding (above) won Best New Artist earlier this year. Her concert tomorrow at the Barbican Centre is sold-out; she returns on 11 July.
Stoute is clearly a very sad, and somewhat bitter person – clearly, with too much means at his disposal – in making such a vacuous and ill-informed statement in a major American broadsheet. Bieber did not win because he was not the best artist – and to even entertain the idea that he might be considered the best representative contemporary [musical] artist (in the true sense) is truly laughable. Pop-pulp product is no match for genuine musical artistry. One hopes that the readership of the New York Times are well-enough informed discerning enough to treat his statement with the contempt it deserves!
What strikes me as strange is that it comes at a time when there are more Latinos in this country than ever before being represented musically in wondrous ways. Besides that, it further marginalizes jazz by having Latin oriented jazz (in all of its manifestations), which is completely different genre than straight ahead jazz, compete against more traditional forms of jazz. It's apples and oranges. Latin jazz is a category unto itself, has a lengthy history and tradition, and is an established genre. I hate to say it, but it's like the old divide and conquer scenario. Except here it's, eliminate and conquer.