As a pop-culture blogger, I know that I should love all awards presentations equally. But, in truth, I hate the Grammy Awards.
For starters, there are just too many categories. The official Grammy Web site lists 78 categories — and that’s whittled down from the 100-plus awards given out last year. Do we really need an award for categories like “Best Surround Sound Album?” The sheer number of them makes it so that they’re only meaningful if artists, like Adele, can win them in groups of half-dozens. Like White Castle hamburgers, you need a sack of them to feel fulfilled.
The categories are so vague, I’m not sure if the people who vote for them even know what they’re voting for. What does it mean to have the “Best Alternative Music Album?” Alternative to what? And how long can someone be around before they’re no longer eligible to be considered a “Best New Artist?” (Bon Iver, last night’s winner in that category, released his first album in 2008. Fountains of Wayne were nominated for Best New Artist in 2004, and they released their first album in 1996.)
Still, those gramophone statues are meaningful to somebody — quite a few somebodies in our area, actually. Sure, none of our locals can unseat the mighty power that is Adele, but they can come close. (Note: I might’ve missed a few buried around the “Best Banda or Norteño Album” categories — if you catch something I missed, let me know in the comments.)
First off, if it weren’t for Westchester resident Alan Menken, we’d never get to brag about winning music awards. Menken won “Best Song Written For Visual Media” for “I See the Light,” which was featured in the Disney movie Tangled. (Editor’s note: In case you didn’t know, Menken is best-known for producing the scores of other famed Disney flicks, like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas.)
In perhaps the biggest of local news, Woodstock stalwart (and our 2010 “Best Local Musician”) Levon Helm won his third consecutive award — “Best Americana Album” — for Ramble at the Ryman. The award is bittersweet: Though most of his renowned Midnight Rambles take place here, the actual performance featured on the album was recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Theater. (We don’t mind much, do we?)
Another Ulster County resident, Pat Metheny, nabbed “Best New Age Album” for What’s It All About — his 19th Grammy to date.
Some notable nominees included Polka King Jimmy Sturr of Florida, NY (nominated for “Best Regional Roots Album”); Steve Earle of Woodstock (“Best Folk Album”); Valley jazz denizen Joe Lovano (“Best Jazz Instrumental Album”) for Bird Songs; and Purchase College professor Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (“Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album”) for 40 Acres and a Burro.
While it’s hard for me to muster enthusiasm for the actual Grammy Awards, the night is more about the performances anyway. Here’s Adele showing off her six-Grammy-award chops. She does not sound like someone who just had vocal surgery:
The most talked-about performance, Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston:
Now, just two weeks until the Oscars!