Politics and the Grammys

First off, I recommend watching the excellent Police reunion performance before Viacom makes YouTube take it down.

Most Grammy wrap-up articles are focusing on the Dixie Chicks winning awards last night and how they have managed to come back despite the ridiculous firestorm caused by a few mildly anti-Bush words a few years ago. This makes me wonder whether the awards are more a political statement by Grammy voters than a judgment of the quality of their music.

It looks like the usual suspects have already made the point too. Jonah Goldberg opined at the Corner this morning: “Indeed, it’s clear that the Dixie Chicks themselves understand that they didn’t win because of their music but because of their manufactured ’cause.'” This line of argument will lead in nicely to the annual conservative complaints about the Oscars, now less than two weeks away.

The New York Times is also running with the vindication storyline in its Tuesday edition.

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12 — The Dixie Chicks’ big win at the Grammy Awards on Sunday exposed ideological tensions between the music industry’s Nashville establishment and the broader, more diverse membership of the Recording Academy, which chooses the Grammy winners, according to voters and music executives interviewed afterward.

To some, the voting served not only as a referendum on President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, but also on what was perceived as country music’s rejection — and radio’s censorship — of the trio.

Jeff Ayeroff, a longtime music executive and an academy member, said the resounding endorsement of the group reflected the fact that the academy represents “the artist community, which was very angry at what radio did, because it was not very American.” Mr. Ayeroff said he voted for the Dixie Chicks in at least one category.

The Grammy voting process switches into gear after Sept. 30, the end of the academy’s annual eligibility period for recordings. As a result, many academy members may have been considering their choices at a time when much of the nation’s attention was devoted to the midterm elections, when dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and other factors resulted in the Republicans’ loss of Congress. At the same time, “Shut Up & Sing,” a documentary about the Dixie Chicks’ experience, hit movie theaters.

This seems like pretty good anecdotal evidence that the vote was more about politics than the quality of music. As I said above, it’s good to reprimand people for their very poor behavior a few years ago, but I don’t think the Grammy awards is a proper forum to give the Dixie Chicks their vindication. The artistic integrity of the awards should require that the people who truly made the best music of the year be recognized.

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