Earth to the Grammies: Top 20 artists are not enough

In keeping with the National Association of Recording Arts and Science’s ongoing mission to “”document and preserve the history of recorded sound,”” a full list of nominees was recently released for this year’s Grammy awards. While the association is sure to achieve its goal, it is also sure to once again remind the citizens of the great nation of America just how stupid they really are. (Note: the association will also remind the citizens of Latin nations how stupid they really are via the Latin Grammy’s, which will not be discussed in length here. Apparently, recording artists are either Latin or non-Latin).

I guess being a citizen of Southern California is a little different from being an American. When 2002 finally came to an end a few weeks ago, a list of the top-selling records was released and I, a loving patron of the musical arts, owned none of these records. After you see the list, you will realize that I am bragging. The best-selling albums of this year, in this order, belonged to: Eminem, Nelly, Avril Lavigne, Dixie Chicks, Eminem, Pink, Ashanti, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, and finally, the beloved “”O Brother Where Are Thou”” soundtrack. Here is a notable fact for people with extremely short-term memories: Eminem is on the list twice.

Somehow, in 2002, Eminem turned from being the nation’s biggest hate monger to being the nation’s most misunderstood hate monger with a soft, chewy center, a hit movie and a grip of your cash. NARAS thought it would record this historical transformation with a number of Grammy nominations.

Not surprisingly, the association also rewarded Avril Lavigne’s top-selling accomplishments with five Grammy nominations. That is one for every year since she hit puberty. In fact, every one of the top-selling artists received a nomination, except for the “”O Brother Where Art Thou”” soundtrack, which was not eligible because it was not released this year. The album received plenty of nominations last year, when it was the No. 9-selling album in the nation. I am a little shocked that this album was a top 10 seller two years straight. I guess all the old people who bought the album lost it and went out and bought it again. Worth noting is that the Shania Twain album that came in at No. 9 was released in mid-November — meaning 2.9 million copies in six weeks.

I would like to personally thank NARAS for awarding this year’s best-selling artists with Grammy nominations and telling the American public what they already knew. Maybe it is just me, but there is something that seems very wrong with the parity between the best-selling album list and the Grammy nomination lists. We all know that Pink sold 3.1 million albums this year with her phonetically correct, but at the same time rebelliously spelled, “”Missundaztood”” (please don’t overlook the double entendre that exists here, but not in the equally rebelliously spelled “”sk8tr boi”” track from Avril Lavigne). Does the American public really have to go through the motions of pretending that Pink is a brilliant artist worthy of an award? This is a person who sings other people’s songs about not being Britney without understanding that she is something much worse, namely the media’s knee-jerk reaction to Britney. I’m not sure if she realizes that she could never have existed if Britney hadn’t existed first. Maybe we will all find out if she wins. During her acceptance speech, perhaps amidst thanking all of the people that wrote her songs, she can thank Britney for not being Pink.

What is NARAS anyway? Well, NARAS is comprised essentially of 18,000 self-interested producers, musicians and music industry moguls. These people make these nominations to try to sell more of these albums. There really isn’t any money to be made in finding an under-appreciated artist and nominating them for an award. That is probably why you won’t find a Best Punk Rock Album nomination category, but you will find a category for best album notes. Gracing the Best Alternative Rock Album list are the likes of radio-friendly bands like Coldplay. Fear not, the sole purpose of NARAS is not just to vote on the Grammys. If that were the case, NARAS would be a worthless institution whose sole purpose was to promote an industry that is comprised completely of its own members. No, NARAS has a traveling middle school education program to help children become more interested in the musical arts. What does this program do? Maybe it teaches the children how to wear a wifebeater, wear a loose tie around the neck, die their hair pink, put a Band-Aid on their face, and sing songs about either how they hate their mother or how to dump their skater boyfriend, which they probably didn’t write.

I only wish it was that friendly and useful a message. NARAS has a much more sinister agenda; the in-class program actually teaches the children about “”piracy”” and copyright laws. There is actually a quiz that these kids take on that asks, “”What does it mean to file-swap?”” They are educating the future generations of compact-disc purchasers about the evils of file-sharing. NARAS is stooping low with good reason; album sales are down 8.7 percent in 2002 from 2001. The biggest piece of evidence that the online file-sharing industry is affecting music sales is probably that the only genre of music that saw an increase in sales in 2002 was country, up 12.1 percent. Those cowboys still don’t know how to use computers.

Maybe a better method of self-preservation for NARAS would be to inspire kids to learn to play a musical instrument. I know it seems far-fetched. After all, of the top 10 selling artists, about one-third know how to play instruments. The big money seems to be in having a look and some unshaped raw talent. Unfortunately, you can’t teach that, and more importantly, you can’t take a lion’s share cut of their record sales and concert revenues. Why encourage children to be musicians when the good money is in being a recording artist?

NARAS is not only documenting the history of recorded sound, but also ensuring a sound future through brainwashing school children and promoting its own members.