Lessons Learned from the 2012 Grammy Awards

February 13, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  30 Comments

If you want to find some snark and sarcasm from the 2012 Grammy Awards, you should check out the official Saving Country Live Blog from last night, but what I want to focus on here is what we can learn from it. Yes, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj supplied some gag reflex moments, but there was also a lot of substance and lessons to be taken from the night’s festivities. Here are the top three things I learned.

1. Substance with Mass Appeal is What the Music Industry Should Seek.

This is the lesson from Adele’s 2012 Grammy sweep. As she said herself, her album 21 was not a pop album. It was picked up by Top 40 and crossed traditional genre lines despite it’s depth and despite Adele not fitting the traditional pop star model. Does this mean that music has turned a page, and this will usher in a new era where substance is celebrated? I’m not sure. Remember the Norah Jones story from a few years ago; this could just be a flash in the pan. But it’s hard not to look at Adele’s overwhelming commercial success and not say the masses appear to be thirsting for more substance.

2. Just Because Music or an Artist is Old, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Engaging or Relevant

Most of the great moments of the 2012 Grammy Awards were supplied by legacy artists or in tribute to fallen greats. The Glen Campbell performance and tribute, Paul McCartney with help from legends like Joe Walsh, Tony Bennett with Carrie Underwood, the original members of The Beach Boys reuniting on stage, and Jennifer Hudson’s performance of a 20-year-old song that to many was the highlight of the night, proves that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it can’t be engaging or relevant. Instead of obsessing over youth and flare, the music industry should try and tap its vast and beautiful history of legacy recordings, compositions, and artists and quit bombarding us with rehashed sounds and themes and stretches of music “creativity” just because well feel like we need something “new”.

We’re now working on a century of recorded music to cull from for audio entertainment. The reason why preserving the history and roots of music is so important is because many of those artists and recordings will never be trumped. Instead of trying, we should embrace that music and attempt to draw inspiration from it in an environment that sees quality as the driving factor for new music, not volume to feed unhealthy overconsumption.

3. The Future (and present) of Music Recording is DIY

As Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters pointed out in accepting his Grammy for Best Rock Album, the traditional recording process involving large, expensive, stuffy studios robs the soul out of the music. He recorded Wasting Light in his garage with a few mics and a tape machine and the process paid off with the album being awarded one of the highest honors possible in music. We should all take heed. Huge studios, $50,000 recording budgets, and even $20,000 Kickstarters are not only superfluous, they are one of the primary culprits for the slavery many artists find themselves in with their traditional record labels, and the lack of soul in much of modern music. Buy a tape machine, an audio interface for your laptop, and few mics and get cracking. Authenticity and soul will always trump perfection.

30 Comments to “Lessons Learned from the 2012 Grammy Awards”

  • I question Dave Grohl’s speech quite a bit. First he talks about how it should come from the heart and the head, and not from some computer. His band performed with electronic/dubstep/etc artist Dead Mouse. So in one night he completely contradicts himself. I also wonder about his “garage setup”. Something tells me that the Foo Fighters use more than just a few mics, a practice amp and a 4 track to record their music. I may be wrong on this, as I have not heard the new album, but I highly doubt it has numerous guitar mistakes and off key vocals. While I appreciate what he said last night, I question his sincerity of it.

    • Without question Dave Grohl’s garage setup is probably nowhere close to yours or mine, but the idea is to promote organic, DIY recording. And I don’t think he was saying anything against electronic music in general, and neither would I. It has it’s place in the music world, and so does perfection, specifically with electronic music. Dave’s idea of a “tape machine” is probably a big 2-inch rig worth thousands, but the principles and philosophies stay the same. And even if it is complete bullshit that the album was recorded DIY, the message is still important. But you’re right, this is still a big star who makes lots and lots of music with his money. We shouldn’t lose touch with that.

      • I agree with his sentiments completely and I am sure means well, it is just the source that it comes from I have a hard time digesting. I watched the video that someone posted of his garage and I will admit the bottom half was more sparse than I thought, but the upstairs was beyond my thoughts. 24 track? Do the Foo Fighters really need that if the are making a record in their garage? Making a big deal about doing analog? Like I questioned Rachel Brooke, why brag about doing analog? Many bands still do that. Sure they may not be signed to multi million contracts on Geffen, but within the underground scene there are many bands that wont touch digital. Is it the rise in popularity that some of smaller bands have gotten that others feel they can ride the coattails of and champion the way? Also is preaching to an award show that panders to pop and rap really going to sway them? This is the same institution that thinks Linkin Park, Paul Mccartney and Jay Z should collaberate and thinks that Jethro Tull is a metal band.

    • Yeah I’d say he has a full functioning studio as good as any that he could have paid to record at. I watched the documentary on the making of this album and it is nice. He also worked with Butch Vig on this which is the guy responsible for the nobs on Nevermind and one of the creators of the band Garbage (he’s produced tons of stuff but he’s really well known for those things). So he didn’t do this small time for sure.

      I think the point of the Foo Fighters album (in my opinion) is not how much money the setup cost just the fact he took the situation he would be recording into his own hands and produced the product he wanted without a huge outside influence. He chose the producer, recorded it in his studio, and made sure he had the final say. There are definitely a few tracks that are rough around the edges on this and it is by far one of my favorite Foo Fighter albums.

      I also think electronic/industrial music can be awesome. I’m a huge Nine Inch Nails fan and some other artists like Skinny Puppy. I’m not even sure he was talking about that (even though in truth a lot of it does comes from a computer). I’d say he more or less is talking about all the drum replacement, vocal tuning, and various other computer tricks that turn a piece of crap into a flower. The idea of actually being able to do these things as opposed to a computer modifying and fixing them for you. I’ve got a few friends that produce music and drum replacement is so bad that half the time anymore the drummer comes in and records his part and the producer goes back in and replaces snares and bass drums with a sample that adds a fuller sound.

    • I don’t think he was talking about electronic music as a genre. Deadmau5 relies on his computer, and computer only. He doesn’t try to hide a voice behind computerized vocals. I think that’s what Grohl was thinking about when he said all that. He’s talking about all the T-Pains, Chris Browns, and other Auto-Tune abusing douchebags.

    • Cant say i know much about recording with tape (i would love to record analog but a poor college kid can afford a cheap mic and audacity much easier) but i know when i record my stuff, even in my bed room, i dont stop until the take is as perfect as i can make it. Im not gonna let off key vocals or bad chords get into my pride and joy if i can help it at all.

    • Dave Grohl responds to Grammy’s acceptance speech backlash


  • Don’t doubt his sincerity. I’m not a fan of Dave Grohl but I think he’s one of the most down to earth rock stars out there right now. Anyway, check out his garage (studio)!


    • Sorry, I didn’t mean I’m not a fan of Dave….just his music mostly! hehe

  • What’s happening with Adele, we saw with Norah Jones before. Norah has continued to make great music but the new has worn off. Hopefully, 10 years from now, Adele won’t have to smoke crack and die in the bathtub to be recognized as the phenom that she is.

  • 2. Just Because Music or an Artist is Old, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Engaging or Relevant. well put. you might even want to add, dead as well. lots of dead guys out there more relevant than some guy wearing a plastic mickey mouse head. yeah, i’m old. just sayin’.

  • Great article.

  • Didn’t watch the Grammys, the Walking Dead took precedence for me, I’m glad to hear Adele swept .She has the most substance out of any pop star I know of. The B-side to Rolling in the Deep was a bluegrass cover. I’d take Adele over Taylor any day.

    • *but

    • Yup! Loved her even more when I found out she covers the Steeldrivers! She gives them amazing shout-outs during her live shows, too.

    • I may die for this, but Taylor did surprisingly well. She performed undoubtedly her worst song (Mean), but she was one of the ones that actually didn’t lipsync. She sounded much better that other live performances she has done.

  • Not to be a prick, but “I will Always Love You” is much older than 20 years.

    • Well of course it is, maybe I should have clarified that, but clearly the point was to channel the vibe of the Whitney Houston version from 1992. That is what I was referencing, but to further the point, yes, the song is even older than that and was paid forward possibly better than the original version (depending on your perspective).

    • Yep…it was released in 1974 and will ALWAYS be a Dolly song to me.

    • Much like what Cash did with ‘Hurt,’ Whitney took over the classic song. I’m sure Dolly will agree. Jennifer Hudson did an outstanding job at covering it as well.

  • i think the reason why there’s less guitar mistakes and off key vocals on Foo Fighters new album is because Dave and the band are seasoned musicians already.

  • Was it just me or did Carrie Underwood keep referring to Tony Bennett as “Tony Bennis”?

  • Trig, I think you’ve mistaken Best Rock Album with AOTY there.

    • I think what I meant to say was Rock Album of the Year, but I guess that would have technically been wrong as well. Anyways it’s changed. Thanks for the heads up!

      • Grohl is facing backlash now. People should appreciated his speech, cause he was the only one that had the balls to tell it publicly what many have thought all this time. He simply just stated why the music industry is ‘dead’. Jesus, some people need to go to school again apparently.

  • […] Lessons Learned.   […]

  • Wasting Light, aside, Foo Fighters started in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide when Dave did a cassette in a not-top-of-the-line studio, playing all of the instruments himself, with songs he wrote himself but could not get past Kurt to be Nirvana songs. He passed it around under a pseudonym and still got a deal. Yes, most aren’t starting out as the drummer of Nirvana, so he was listened to more than most, but I have an un-remastered bootleg of that first album and it still rocks (in a 90’s way, of course).

    The Foo Fighters, I think, should be commended for trying to figure out how to hold onto their past values (Dave, Pat Smear and Nate all came out of punk, hardcore and post-hardcore) with their arena-rock present.

    I think it’s another example of the great conundrum of music – how do you stay true to your roots and original appeal without making the same album over and over? How do you progress as an artist without betraying your initial influences? I don’t think there’s an artist who was ever able to handle that conflict perfectly. Even my favorites, like Waylon, Willie, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash made records that felt like huge commercial compromises. The fact that the Foo Fighters aren’t working with “hitmaker” producers and adding lots of “beats” or “loops” should be commended.

  • Not a huge Foo Fighters fan, though I dig Dave Grohl in interviews and such. I respect him, just never been overwhelmed by the music.

    That aside, did anyone else want to just punch Jack Black in the face? And take his snap shirt license away?

  • yo, why isn’t anyone talking about bon iver? this is the 2nd year in a row they’ve recognized genuine and thoughtful alternative music over generic mainstream crap. and after the “who is an arcade firez” backlash of last year they had to know the same thing would happen giving bon iver the best new artist over minaj and skrilly and whoever else. i dont love the grammys but gotta give them credit for choosing who they really think was the best instead of who they think viewers want to see win. and bon ivers self titled is a powerful album in the classic sense of the word, one you should always listen to start to finish.

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