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

Maura / February 11, 2008

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]