Grammys

For rap fans, the premiere match-up of the 56th Grammy Awards was between Macklemore, of infinitely played-out "Thrift Shop" fame, versus Kendrick Lamar, whose major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, cemented a landmark narrative within the genre, frequently compared to Nas's '94 classic, Illmatic. Radio Disney bop-fun versus nihilistic, sex-fueled correspondence from the wrong boulevard in Compton, California—guess which LP t

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Stardom isn’t normal. It’s familiar, even commonplace—ever-present not only in the realm of actors, singers, and other pop entertainers, but also in the overlapping circles of athletes, politicians, tech “visionaries,” and ambiguously skilled celebrities-as-celebrities whom Americans love to ogle, aggrandize, belittle, and resent. The impulse to idolize is as old as the gods, of course. Jesus was a superstar some time before Andrew Lloyd Webber came around.

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The music industry, whose economic status roughly mirrors that of Greece, is finally making once-unthinkable cutbacks in entitlements. The finalists for this year’s Grammys were announced this week, and some hugely popular acts who by tradition would have been guaranteed nominations were shut out of the top categories. With the weakening of the corporate oligarchy of the old-line record companies, the nomination process has loosened up a bit for the good.

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In the music business, as in government finance, partial fixes are not fixes at all, but, more often, appeasements and, sometimes, impairments. Last week, the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the industry body that runs the Grammys, responded to pleas from its appropriately panicked membership and announced a plan to improve the awards through consolidation. NARAS eliminated 31 award categories—nearly one third of the 109 categories honored in past years.

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