Guest Shot: Those Grammy Changes

Outrage continues to grow in the Latin jazz community over the decision of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) to drop the Best Latin Jazz category from the annual Grammy awards. The NARAS Board of Governors this week decided to eliminate nearly a third of the award categories, but the loudest protest has come from Latin jazz artists, their fans and record labels that specialize in Latin music. NARAS president Neil Portnow defended cutting the number of categories from 109 to 78 as “restructuring.” He countered charges that big record companies can influence the Grammy voting and, as Larry Rohter reported in The New York Times, “seemed to be arguing that the committee that cut 31 Grammy categories was acting to preserve the integrity of the awards.”

As Eddie Palmieri, Bobby Sanabria and other Latin jazz musicians continue to protest, people in many areas of music are calling into question the overall thrust and and purpose of the Grammys. Among them is the saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer and Grammy-award-winning bandleader Bob Belden. Belden has committed his thoughts on the matter to paper in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, Woody Allen and Stan Freberg. He has allowed Rifftides to share them with you.

By Bob Belden

Adding further fuel to the fire, NARAS announced late last night that the
use of “Minor Chords or any chord that would constitute a breach of the peace is prohibited in songs or arrangements submitted for Grammy Consideration”.

In another ruling, the board, at the urging of Cee-Lo and the panel of
America’s Got Talent and American Idol, have created a “Best Profane Song Of The Year” category. When asked by reporters about this about-face in lieu of dropping categories, a spokesperson for NARAS said “F___ you”. They are also considering for the “Best New Artist” category the use of a text message voting system to appeal to audience participation and ensure that the least talented “artist” will always win based on popularity and media exposure, the true philosophy of NARAS.

In another move to boost revenue, each major category will have a
corporate sponsor. “Song of the Year” will now be “Comcast Song of the Year.” “Best New Artist” will be “Exxon Best New Artist.” Hilton Hotels will sponsor “Best Lounge Act.” Sony will sponsor “Best New Sony Artist.” The Emir of Dubai, Warren Buffet and Osama Bin Laden have donated money to the NARAS Executive Travel Fund to get “branding rights.” Rumors are that The Trump Organization wants branding rights to all of the R&B and Hip Hop awards as a reflection of Donald Trump’s closeness with “the blacks.” Newt Gingrich is reported to want branding rights to an R&B category out of “historic traditions.” The State of Arizona wants rights to all Hispanic categories in order to deport all of the artists who enter. We know of deals in the works for “Phil Spector Best Female Artist,” the “Suge Knight Humanitarian Award” and “Goldman Sachs Best Country and Western,” but details are not forthcoming; all is hush-hush at NARAS headquarters in the Blackwater/Halliburton building.

Henceforth, the Grammy statues will contain advertising. When artists accept the awards, they will be instructed to hold the objects in a way that will allow one or two corporate logos to flash in front of the millions of viewers. This money will be donated to the NARAS Executive Compensation Fund. CBS will also charge a ‘”flash view” fee for any artist who wants to have a one-second “cut to” shot in the televised show. If an artist or manager wants more “flash time,” the fee is increased.

Dropped before their first year of awards were “Best Overdubbed Solo”,
“Best Latin Jazz Vocals Sung in Actual Latin,” “Best New Payola Artist,” “Best New Monopoly Label” and “Best Baritone Saxophone Solo.” The live band will be eliminated, on grounds that most of the nominated artists will not know the difference.

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  1. mel says

    Thanks for this piece, Doug – and thanks particularly to Bob Belden for sharing his brilliant satire with your readers.

  2. says

    This is brilliant–Belden is nonpareil at such things–but like Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” it’s too close to reality to be a mere parody.

  3. Tom Meek says

    Guitarist Elliott Randall offered a version of this commentary earlier today on his Facebook page. One of his commenters suggested NARAS should be renamed as the National Academy of Rap Arts and Sciences, and that a new category might be “Best Unpaid for Sample”. Indeed.