For the first time in years, the Grammys had a chance to reverse their inconsequential and hopelessly unhip pattern of recognizing expired radio trends and jumping on pop culture bandwagons. Forget the first two hours of the show, which were dominated by Bono's arrogant ramblings and the Destiny Children's midriffs. The big drama that could have vindicated this irrelevant studio-horse awards show was the battle over album of the year.
The Grammys had not one chance, but three: Radiohead's Kid A, Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP, and Beck's Midnite Vultures were all nominated. Kid A stands as one of the most astounding and pioneering rock albums in recent memory. Eminem's music is pure cultural warfare, conflating issues of censorship, racism, domestic violence and media influence in a masterful combination of rage and artful expression. And then there's Beck-'nuff said.
So what statement was the show going to make? Judging by the industry president's "music is rebellion" speech and Eminem's climactic performance of "Stan," all bets were on Slim Shady. What type of statement would we get: revolutionary, irreverent or provocative?
Instead, the show went tuck tail and run, tossing the award to Steely Dan in a cowardly and atavistic refusal to recognize progressive music. We're sure the band's Two Against Nature is a fine record, but this was an important year in music history, and for the Grammys to ignore all three albums invalidates artists who push the boundaries of popular music today.
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