Critics have suggested that the cuts disproportionately affected ethnic categories. That's not true. The cuts were across-the-board, affecting virtually all fields. The pop and rock fields, for example, each shrunk from seven categories last year to four this year. The classical field shrunk from 11 to seven. (I give you the year-to-year comparison for all fields a little lower in this story.)
Even with the new, leaner-and-meaner Grammys, there are far more categories than there are in the Oscars (24) and the Tonys (26). Only the prime-time Emmys, with 101 categories, have more categories.
By contrast, there are just four categories for actors at the Oscars. There are eight categories for actors at the Tonys. Even the Emmys, whose nominations list this year ran to 75 pages (!), have just 19 categories reserved for actors and hosts.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has long resisted calls to have separate categories for comedy and drama. Actually, if they cut their pie into slices as narrow as the Grammys have had in recent years, they would have not only Best Actor in a Comedy and Best Actor in a Drama, but Best Actor In A Romantic Comedy, Best Actor In An Action Comedy, Best Actor In A Family Comedy and so on. At a certain point, it becomes a race with all winners.
You may be surprised to learn that there were just 28 categories in 1958, when the Grammys began. The number topped 50 for the first time in 1977. It topped 75 for the first time in 1988. It topped 100 for the first time in 2000. Some of that category expansion was vitally necessary. When the Grammys began, they focused on jazz, classical and what we now call traditional pop. They got serious about country and R&B in the 1960s, but there were no categories devoted to rock until 1979; and none devoted to rap until 1988.
But another part of the category bloat was due to the academy's seeming inability to say no to any reasonable (or semi-reasonable) request for a new category. Until this year, they had separate categories for Best Musical Album for Children and Best Spoken World Album For Children. Children's music is a valid genre, but that's a little much. (This year, the categories were combined into Best Children's Album.)
The cuts were an attempt to bring parity to all major musical fields. This year, the academy has four awards in the pop, rock, R&B, rap, country, jazz and Latin fields. Just three fields have more categories. Classical leads with seven. Two broad fields have five categories each: "Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music" and "American Roots Music," an umbrella field which includes such genres as bluegrass, blues and folk.
As promised, here are all the fields that experienced cuts this year. I first show the number of categories that were in the field last year, and then then the number that are in the category this year: pop (seven to four), rock (seven to four), R&B (eight to four), rap (five to four), country (seven to four), jazz (six to four), Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music (seven to five), Latin (seven to four), American Roots Music (nine to five), World Music (two to one), children's (two to one), classical (11 to seven).
They also cut awards for Best Instrumental Performance in Pop, Rock, Country, (They now compete with vocalists in other performance categories.) But they retained the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album.
I don't agree with all of the changes. I would have preserved separate categories for male and female vocalists in pop, R&B and country. (The awards in the rock and rap fields were combined years ago because of a perennial shortage of female nominees.) The Oscars, Emmys and Tonys all have separate awards for each gender. Award show audiences like it that way and expect it. Why mess with that?
I don't understand why they have one combined category for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Performance, when they have separate categories for Best Album and Best Song for each of those styles. If the albums and songs are so different they can't be compared, how can they compare the performances? That's illogical.
I don't think I would have cut Best Urban/Alternative Performance, which was a hot category. Winners included such utterly contemporary hits as OutKast's "Hey Ya!," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Cee Lo Green's "F**k You (Forget You)."
The cuts were made after a sub-committee spent more than a year studying the topic. Critics have charged that the academy didn't consult enough people before it acted. I think here the critics have a point. For the record, while I had a vague idea that an overhaul was in the works, I had no idea what it entailed or how extensive it would be. Nobody at the academy asked my opinion about the cuts before they were announced.
So, the critics argue, if the show zeroes in on eleven or so categories on the TV show, what does it matter if there are 78 categories or 109 or 150, for that matter? If it can help a musician in a specialized genre get a little publicity or better concert bookings, why not? I don't really have an answer to that, other than I think it devalues a Grammy when they're so easy to win.
With The Rev. Jackson entering the picture, I'm sure this controversy is going to be with us for a while. What do you think? Did the Grammys cut or gut? Weigh in below.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Arts & Entertainment Events