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Commentary: Grammys should still award originality

Lauren Creiman, News Editor

For many artists, the five most nerve-wracking words are “And the Grammy goes to….”

Sadly, many unique artists will no longer get the chance to even hope their names come at the end of that sentence.

The Recording Academy unveiled a massive overhaul of its Grammy categories and voting processes in April that eliminated 31 categories, bringing the total to 78.

The 2012 Grammy nominees were announced at the nomination concert earlier this week, bringing the fallout of the category cuts to the forefront.

Seventy-eight categories is still fairly intensive, and many artists will not see themselves greatly affected by this change. Yet for some it has already made a huge difference, such as for Latin or folk artists.

Most importantly, these changes make a greater statement to the music industry that discourages the drive to be original.

Seven Latin categories have been condensed into four and the American roots music field has been trimmed from nine categories to five.

Pop and rock fields have also been noticeably affected, with a clearer directive through the condensation of best male and female pop vocal performance into best pop vocal performance and rock instrumental and rock solo vocal performances into the overall best rock performance.

Allow me to be clear; I am not a huge fan of awards shows. Many times, they feel like endless variety shows, with uncomfortable one-liners from celebrities we barely remember who have little to no relevance to the show.

The logical side of me says that these changes are great, since the shows will be shorter for those enduring in the audience and the categories will be more straightforward.

Yet the artist in me says that the changes will have greater effects than the Recording Academy could have predicted, and they will not be good for the music industry.

The entertainment business has a reputation of trying to mass-produce artists from the same mold, with looks and voices so similar that it is hard to tell them apart. Yet fans delight when a unique little gem makes it out alive and retains its originality.

By having these detailed and sometimes bizarre-sounding categories, artists are encouraged to be as specific, as bizarre, as unique as they dream in creating their music.

An artist within the American roots field that is inspired to make music with zydeco or Cajun influence could have been recognized for that specific choice before the category changes were made.

Now, such an artist will have to fit within a more straightforward category in competition with many other artists.

The chance for musicians to win Grammys for their original, off-beat craft is diminished when they have to compete with more mainstream artists for the same award.

This may be discouraging to such artists, who ought to be encouraged to create more one-of-a-kind music in order to bring originality back to a streamlined industry.

Lauren Creiman, a sophomore journalism major, is news editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at lauren.creiman@laverne.edu.

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