Streamlined Grammys to embrace age of austerity

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The Independent Culture

In a rare outbreak of trophy deflation, the American Recording Academy has revealed that starting in 2012 it will be giving away a mere 78 Grammy awards to the world's most successful and talented musical artists and bands, down sharply from the evidently extravagant 108 that it has become accustomed to distributing over recent years. Presumed benefits of this sudden shedding of gong-weight include a cut in manufacturing costs – those model gramophones don't grow on trees – and an easier job for producers trying to deliver an evening awards show that doesn't last beyond breakfast. But perhaps more importantly those still winning a Grammy can be just a little bit prouder.

"It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy," said Academy president Neil Portnow. "We are talking about the most prestigious, coveted award and it should be a high bar in terms of the measurement of receiving that."

Gender rivalry will now be more a feature of awards night. The trophy table on Grammy night will be lighter in part because the Academy will no longer be recognising male and female artists separately in such categories as pop, R&B and country.

And this seems to make perfect sense to Mr Portnow. "A great singer is a great singer is a great singer," he asserted, explaining the changes. "And somebody that has a gift in terms of their voice, and is at the top of their game in terms of their delivery and emotion, really isn't necessarily defined by gender. Most unsettled will be those performers who until this year at least might have been in the running for a Grammy in a category that is to be eliminated altogether.

Out of luck, for example, will be those who fancy themselves best in the world when it comes to children's spoken word album or contemporary gospel.

In fact, as a category modifier contemporary will be banished. Gospel will be therefore gospel, contemporary or not. Also gone will be a range of categories associated with regions and places.

It's bad news for a certain archipelago in the Pacific, for instance. Best Hawaiian album, won this year by Tia Carrere, is in the dustbin, as is Creole and Zydeco.

Zydeco stars might have reason to worry the most since there are some of us who already might not recognise Zydeco it if it walked into the room. It is a music style that features frantic rubbing of washboards and originated in south-western Louisiana.

Finally, purist head-bangers despair: the Academy will longer award separate Grammys for hard rock and metal. These genres, for better or worse, are henceforth one and the same thing.

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