Culture > Music
Associated Press/Charles Rex Arbogast

Trophy inflation

Music | Proliferation of awards dilutes their prestige

Issue: "The Obama era," Feb. 14, 2009

This year the Grammy Awards turn 51, and whether one considers them an entertaining show or an overlong infomercial for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), there's a growing consensus that they've outlived their purpose: to honor audio recordings of superior merit.

Never mind the politicking (the sympathy heaped upon the Dixie Chicks after their denunciation of former President Bush) or the tendency of big-selling recordings to win out over better, lesser-selling ones. The main reason the Grammies now feel meaningless is that sooner or later everyone who stays in the game long enough gets one.

To better grasp the absurdity of such diversity run amok, imagine an NFL parallel: Instead of Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Awards, there would be awards for every position, along with subcategories for every ethnicity (Most Valuable AFC Samoan Strong Safety: Troy Polamalu). There might be awards for Best Solo Quarterback Sack and Best Quarterback Sack by a Duo or Group, for Best Kicker-Freezing Time Out by a Head Coach, Best Reversed Call After Further Review, and Best Post-Routine-Tackle Celebration Dance.

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For some a Grammy leads to increased CD sales and performance fees. But overall in 2008 there was a 20 percent decline in U.S. music sales. Maybe instead of inferring that a multitude of Grammy winners equals a cornucopia of excellence, consumers are concluding that when every recording is equally excellent, none of them are.

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