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.