The Top Five Problems With Last Night’s Grammy Show (And A Few Possible Solutions)

79700469.jpgThe promise of seeing Tina Turner perform with Beyonce–and other generational boundaries get kicked in, or at least gently hip-checked–wasn’t as much of a turn-on for Joe Television Viewer as executives at CBS thought it would be: Numbers for this year’s Grammy telecast were off 12% from last year, and down an astonishing 18.82% among adults 18-49. (Well, OK, those numbers aren’t that astonishing given the corresponding drop in album sales this year. But still, not good!) So what happened? Was it the booking? Were the bus ads with just photos of Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl too subtle for potential viewers–and kind of embarrassing for the producers, since Macca wasn’t even at the telecast? Or is it just another example of music falling somewhere below ice hockey in terms of pastimes in which Americans are interested–and the music industry doing its damndest to keep its profile plummeting? After the jump, I count down the top five issues faced by last night’s telecast, from poor advertising to ill-advised demographic-chasing.

1. Can’t anyone around here advertise this thing? Between the chaos surrounding who was and wasn’t performing, the relative lack of TV spots, the user-generated “best Grammy moments” special that was relegated to the Friday-night wasteland, and “abstract” bus ads that tried to link Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney, the Grammys’ run-up seemed oddly anticlimactic–even though the National Academy Of Recording Arts and Sciences enlisted a big-bucks ad agency to get the word out about the ceremony’s 50th year. Clearly the agita over whether or not Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson would be showing up threw a monkeywrench into the Grammys’ show-touting plans, but a show that has a big-agency ad budget should at least have some sort of Plan B as far as getting people who aren’t in the biz excited about tuning in.

2. In a time when the music industry is dying, the last thing anyone wants to see is dead people. This isn’t in reference to the montage of people who have passed away over the years–which had its own problems, like a bunch of glaring omissions (hello? Stockhausen?)–but to the show’s opener, which brought back Frank Sinatra from the dead for the dual purpose of giving the Grammys a showy “hook” and elevating Alicia Keys’ status. And the rest of the show followed suit, becoming a sort of grotesquerie that was paying homage to the days when albums actually went gold and platinum on a regular basis.

3. A note to whoever books your show next year: There are other bands that know how to play rock and roll besides Kid Rock and the Foo Fighters. And incredibly, some of them have members that are under 35! That was one of the more startling aspects of the evening; all the “young” performers were in R & B and hip-hop–aside from Josh Groban, who manages to be both old and young simultaneously–even though rock albums like Daughtry and, God help me, Nickelback’s All The Right Reasons have sold a lot more copies than Rihanna’s just-brushing-a-million-sold Good Girl Gone Bad. (And let’s not even get into When you have John Fogerty as the torch-passee in a “history of rock” segment, something has gone horribly wrong on the demographic-calculation front.

4. Stop with the “bringing the fans into the show” contests. Both the My Grammy Moment contest and that People-sponsored sweepstakes that allowed some poor woman to serve as Spokesmodel For A Day made the show look even more desperate for people to have reasons to care about it. Not to mention that it makes the whole Olde Music Industry-glorifying aspects of the show even more insidious.

5. Tell Matthew Knowles where the sun can shine. This is going back to the whole “where were the rock performers under 35?” issue, but honestly–Solange gets stage time and you can’t even bring one youngish rock nominee on stage? And people wonder why the music industry is in trouble, part XXVIII.

And a bonus track: For an anticlimactic show, that ending sure was an anticlimax. After Herbie Hancock’s Album Of The Year win (still causing controversy, just in case you were wondering!), the New York CBS affiliate cut to about seven minutes of commercials–and then, all of a sudden, there were the credits, projected over a bunch of confetti falling while Cirque du Soleil members twirled around to Beatles songs. Which made me ask myself: Is David Foster Wallace getting side work with awards shows? A good closing number would have sent the broadcast out with a bang–and given the show a better parting hook than people scratching their heads over the fact that the “Rockit” guy was still alive.

Earlier: Idolator’s complete Grammy coverage
[Photo: Getty]

  • unperson

    The dead-folks montage was the only part of the show I watched, and not only was Stockhausen missing (a huge omission, but not exactly surprising)…where was ALICE COLTRANE?

  • Arthur2sheds

    Wait, is Beyonce wearing knee-highs?

  • Anonymous

    Good, I’m glad the ratings were down. Reflects the increase in irrelevance for the show and the traditional music industry. At least 4 of those performances could have been cut in favor of more awards being handed out. Frankly, I would have liked to have heard what Jack White or Mark Ronson had to say. And what was the purpose of Key/Sinatra? She’s not a new artist, she stands very well on her own and she is familiar to both young people and older people who have heard “Fallin’” or whatever on Lite FM. Just another pointless technological “marvel.”

    And I don’t think people would watch the show even if it was advertised better.

  • Anonymous

    Easily the least-entertaining Grammys of recent history. And that says quite a lot….

  • BlissSister

    Sorry, but why is everyone hating on Herbie Hancock? Because he plays jazz? The man is a legend, you rock snobs.

  • MTS

    Just to chime in regarding the booking, NARAS includes much more than pop acts. While we think the pairings are snoozy, it’s done to appease and recognize a huge chunk of their membership.

  • jt.ramsay

    The unfortunate thing for me is that they seem to be able to produce a much better show than their awards show competition, but then they squander that advantage by trying to include all aspects of the industry rather than focus on the movers and shakers.

  • baconfat

    @unperson: The 2007 Grammys were held a month after Alice’s death, so let’s hope they had the sense to throw her visage in the dead person montage then. I wouldn’t know; I didn’t watch them last year. Or the year before that. Or the year before that.

  • DavidWatts

    The industry just does not know who their audience is, how to reach them, or what they want. Even worse, they don’t know that they don’t know these things. If they had glanced at some album or ticket sales info this year, it would have been an all-Nickleback-and-Hannah-Montana show. And yet there was a Chinese guy in an marching band jacket playing George Gershwin. I enjoyed that, personally, but come on. Seriously.

  • JudgeFudge

    Will.I.Am’s rap right before the album of the year was about as cool as when your junior high principal put on a backwards baseball cap and “rapped” during school spirit week.

  • the rich girls are weeping

    I think that the American public’s cheeze-factor detectors are much more highly evolved than anyone would believe. Or, I’d like to think so, anyway. Seriously, how many other people REACHED FOR THE REMOTE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE when Alicia started “singing” with Sinatra? Who is the idiot (idiots?) who keeps rehashing this terrible, terrible idea over and over again? WORST.

    But really, at the end of the day, isn’t bemoaning the decline of the Grammys just sort of like bemoaning the decline of monoculture in general? It’s just too late. No one cares anymore.

  • Thierry

    Other things that were wrong:
    - I’m all for showcasing various facets of the industry, but what was the point of that giant gospel/contemporary Christian extravaganza in the middle of the show? I would’ve been fine with a 3.5-minute BeBe Winans/Aretha performance, instead of bringing in the Queen of Soul for eight lousy bars at the beginning and a couple of poorly mixed screams at the end of a really lousy medley.
    - NARAS’s weird infomercial-style segment starring the über-tanned Neil Portnow. I felt like he was either trying to get me to a) join the Church of Scientology, b) buy a time-share, c) sponsor a musician for less than the price of a daily cup of coffee, d) all of the above
    - I love Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to death, but that’s what that performance reeked of last night. Death. Keep John Fogerty, and bring in Jack White or the Hold Steady to show the “passing of the torch”. They did it much better with the Time and Rhianna.
    - Less Alicia Keys. What warranted two Alicia Keys performances this year? The release of a subpar album that will be all over NEXT YEAR’S Grammys anyway? Is there really no limit to Clive Davis’s power? Also, the Sinatra thing was creepy and pointless – couldn’t they find a better song for the duet than the rather throwaway “Learnin’ the Blues”, or at least a performance where Frank doesn’t suddenly change age and appearance between the opening speech and the song?

  • FionaScrapple

    Die, Grammys! Die!

  • Anonymous

    They still have the Grammys?

  • rad_matter

    I should’ve watch my alma mater somehow beat Clemson instead.

  • rad_matter

    @rad_matter: -ed

  • Lucas Jensen

    The Grammys have always been the least credible of the major awards (though, God, the Emmys are close, no?) because of the sheer volume they have to sift through…30,000 records instead of, say, 300 movies (I am making this number up) for the Oscars. And Oscar can immediately eliminate the Norbits of the world. Oh, wait.

    Never mind.

  • jopari actually likes the G1, thank you very much.

    Wait, so does nobody else see the Tina Turner nip slip?

  • Anonymous

    First Things Grammys need to stop doing is.

    Stop awarded people the Album of the Year award who don’t deserve it. It should be based on the best possible work that year not on a lifetime of work.

  • Defenestrated

    @dan13l: I see it as similar to Scorsese’s Oscar win for The Departed (it was an Oscar, right?) Sure it may not be his best work, but come on the dude deserves it. I don’t really see the other nominees as being robbed either. Foo Fighters are reliable if nothing else, but the album didn’t exactly blow my mind. Winehouse already got plenty of awards (and for me at least, Ronson was really the best thing she had going for her). I haven’t really heard the other two nominees though, so I can’t speak for them… maybe they were fantastic, I don’t know.

    It also, in some strange roundabout way, reminded me that I still need to check out Ornette Coleman’s latest album.

  • Anonymous

    Hancock’s win was the epitomy of new industry slapping old industry in the face. I’d bet dollars to donuts Clive Davis went to change his underwear after seeing a record marketed in (and by) Starbucks win album of the year. The significance of the win is profound and quite the harbinger of death for the old system.

  • Anonymous

    I thought I was watching the BET/Rap music awards show.
    And what happened to all of the other grammy recipients
    like Justin Timberlake,Prince, Robert Plant&Allison Crause, Bruce Springsteen, and others? All the winners were deserving, but who picks which awards are to be aired and which aren’t, becuase you suck at your job.