The 2013 Grammy Awards played it safe and got it wrong

Mumford & Sons accepting the Album of the Year at the 2013 Grammys. Ho hum.

If the Grammy Awards are indeed 'Music's Biggest Night,' then it's no wonder that the industry itself is in so much trouble. Despite the Academy's best efforts in recent years to draw the "alternative" music fan into the mainstream self-congratulatory love fest that is the Grammys -- even going so far as to bestow some of the biggest awards to Arcade Fire and Bon Iver in the past two ceremonies -- the show typically plays out in rather bland, predictable fashion where the biggest-selling albums and most recognizable/marketable artists are rewarded for doing their part to save a struggling industry, while a majority of innovative music consistently gets ignored.

While criticizing an easy target like the Grammys is as tired and tedious as most of the performances from last night's ceremony, is it futile for music fans to ask more from what is supposedly our 'Biggest Night'?

See Also:
Gotye gushes about Prince, Katy Perry jabs Bon Iver at 2013 Grammys
My mom reviews the Grammy Awards 2013 nominees

The Academy has created a long laundry list of somewhat baffling musical categories, ensuring that just about any music fan will feel represented and included. However, of the 81 Grammys presented last night, only 10 of them are actually awarded on the TV broadcast, thus relegating those deserving winners (and the fans of those artists) to the fine print buried at the end of articles touting the greatness of the night's biggest winners, Mumford and Sons, Gotye, the Black Keys, and Fun, with the majority of those same winners also taking up precious air time with their uninspired live performances.

I suppose the simple fact that I was watching the Grammys for the third year in a row (after a lifetime spent ignoring them) should prove that in a small way, the Academy's efforts to draw in a wider audience has indeed succeeded. But I feel obligated to watch the Grammys these days, making my living as I do as a music journalist, so that argument isn't quite as valid. (Though a surprising number of my music loving friends tuned in as well -- so perhaps it it does hold a bit of water.)

Jack White - Love Interruption & Freedom At 21... by IdolxMuzic

But, other than live performances from Jack White (amazing) and Frank Ocean (lackluster), I had no real interest in much of the broadcast, which I believe is more of a failure on behalf of the Recording Academy than it is a fault of my own. I want to be entertained by the Grammys, but each successive year I'm left underwhelmed and dismayed by the proceedings. When one of the most memorable events of the evening is made by Prince, who created more of a stir with his mere presence as a presenter (and a few mumbled words) than most musicians did with their songs, than the event itself has serious issues.

Nevermind that the only true hip-hop performance of the night (other than Jay-Z's sleepwalking verse in Justin Timberlake's new song, "Suit & Tie, and Wiz Khalifa's forgettable turn alongside Miguel) was crammed into the end of the ceremony after the Album of the Year was presented (as the sponsors were thanked and the credits rolled). The fact that two way-past-their-prime MC's (Grammy host LL Cool J and Public Enemy's Chuck D) were the best that the Academy could muster proves just how out of touch they are with modern hip-hop.

In addition to that, it seemed that the newly created category, Best Urban Contemporary Album, was derived simply so that Frank Ocean would be guaranteed to win one award during the ceremony. He was nominated in an impressive six categories (including Album of the Year), but other than the Best Urban Contemporary Album Grammy, Ocean only took home a Best Rap Collaboration Grammy along with Jay-Z and Kanye West for his work on "No Church in the Wild."

Frank Ocean Grammys 2013 performance by dm_51181cced0274

And sadly, his off-pitch and awkward performance of "Forrest Gump," one of the weaker songs off of Ocean's otherwise engaging breakthrough album, Channel Orange, certainly won't garner him many new fans, either. Which is unfortunate, because the cover star of this week's New York Times Magazine deserves to break out to a wider audience.

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