Now that the annual celebration the American music business, the Grammy Awards show, is over, I would like to make a couple of humble suggestions.
First, if the music is so good, and it is supposed to be the best, isn’t it, why do we need so much visual production to prop it up? It is the sound and performance of the music itself that is supposed to move us, not the flashing lights and lasers. And now they have added computerized enhancements that, for me, distract from the songs.
Of course, I come from an era when we could listen to music in the dark and it would conjure up images in our imaginations. Now the music business wants to control our imaginations and tell us what we are supposed to see with our mind’s eyes.
And secondly, the categories are all wrong. I realize that they stem from a loose description of American musical forms such as “Country” and “Soul,” but surely it is evident to all that the forms have cross pollinated to the point at which these old labels no longer apply.
When a Taylor Swift song is played on a country music radio station that category has ceased to exist.
Allow me to suggest some new categories. The first and always most important is Mating Music. This is mostly the dance music of many genres. But it all serves the same purpose. It is an accompaniment to each generations discovery of their sexuality.
Then there is message music. This, too, cuts through the old categories. It could be from any of the old forms. It would be a song that actually says something lyrically.
Then there could be an award for each of the two great musical aspects of a song. First, there is melody. This is hard – impossible I think – to describe in words. But it is the beauty of a flow of notes that stirs the soul.
Then here is harmony. This is the combination of two melodies into one. The tensions and releases that are possible while practising this technique are the building blocks of the drama and arc of a song.
Then there are chants, which are fun and invite communal participation. They are simple but effective.
There are happy songs and there are sad songs. These could also be categories for awards.
And lastly there are funny songs, a genre that is now completely overlooked. But it is a genre which I hold in high esteem because I know how difficult it is to produce them.
Other performance categories could include the qualities of seduction, and vocal calisthenics (a form that has been perfectd by American Idol).
We could also celebrate the continual generational creation of the singer as a love object. This aspect of the music business is its bread and butter.