PROTESTS PLANNED IN LA: WHAT THE HELL, L.L? WHY ARE THE GRAMMYS BACKTRACKING ON DIVERSITY?
By Danny Schechter
LL "Cool J" will be
solo-hosting the annual Grammy Awards this Sunday, February 12th, in
Los Angeles. The rap veteran who also just happens to have a show on CBS also
just happens to be the star that his network has chosen for maximum prime-time
"face time,' the kind of cross promotional showcase that every network loves
for "their" talent.
LL speaks of his role on what's called "Music's Biggest Night" as a "thrill" and a "dream come true."
What he doesn't reflect on was his own past: the year he boycotted the ceremony because it wasn't honoring rap artists in the days before rap became a best-selling commercial music.
Ironically, LL Cool J is now the front man for a TV extravaganza that other artists are slamming for excluding major American music traditions as part of what they picture as a further corporate takeover of the music business.
Just as the dominant power of corporate power in politics is being challenged by movements like Occupy Wall Street, the re-engineering of the awards by a still secret committee without a vote by musicians is being criticized as discriminatory and anti-democratic.
The top executive of the Grammy's, Neil Portnow, seems to be there please advertisers by streamlining the ceremony, to quicken its pace, and keep the focus on the biggest stars and most popular best-selling genres.
He presided over the dropping of 31 categories of music, including those that most appeal to minorities, in essence, eroding the cultural diversity that has always been a selling point for NARAS, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Some of these categories include: Latin Jazz, Traditional and Contemporary Blues, Hawaiian, Mexican Norteña, Polka. Native American, R & B, Gospel, Traditional and Contemporary Jazz and Cajun/Zydeco.
Portnow doesn't seem to appreciate the political and cultural dimensions of this controversy. He has been unresponsive to calls to reinstate the deleted categories.
"Every year there are changes but we've never " stopped and stepped back to look at the whole thing," Portnow told Billboard in an exclusive interview. "[We asked], is there an underlying infrastructure and rationale across all the awards as to how we're doing this? And what we found is, there wasn't."
So they have created one by dumping the music that many artists struggled for decades to win recognition for.
Visibility for these genres introduces diverse music to viewers and helps the careers of less well-known artists.
One of American's best known singers, Frank Sinatra, an early Grammy winner said at the first Grammy ceremony that he believed in the awards because they were about musical excellence, not popularity (or sales.)