Former Record Exec Steve Stoute Trashes the Grammys in Full-Page NYT Ad -- And He's Got a Point

lady_gaga_2010_grammys_photo_2.jpg
Gaga at the Grammys
Steve Stoute, an industry executive famous in hip-hop circles for managing Nas and beefing with Diddy, isn't happy with the way the Grammys turned out last week. In fact, he's so mad that he took out a full page ad in the New York Times to air his grievances with the award show. And he's got a point.
In a lengthy diatribe, Stoute -- now an advertising and marketing guru -- takes the complaints many have had about the Grammys for years, and puts them front and center in one of the country's most visible publications. He claims the organization which puts on the show, the National Association of Recording Artists and Singers (NARAS), has lost touch with popular culture and is heading towards irrelevancy:

Where I think that the Grammys fail stems from two key sources: (1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic.

  He also hints that hip-hop is disregarded by NARAS as an irrelevant genre:

Just so that I'm not showing partiality to hip-hop artists (although it would be an entirely different letter as to how hip-hop music has been totally diminished as an art form by this organization), how is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist?"

Stoute's argument splinters when he starts listing examples and attempts to equate record sales with artistic merit. He calls Eminem the "Bob Dylan of our time" (um -- no), claims Kanye's Graduation should have won Album of the Year in 2007 (that's a stretch), and points to his support of Justin Bieber as proof he's not irrecoverably biased toward hip-hop (despite the fact that many of Bieber's musical/visual/cultural signifiers are pulled from hip-hop and R&B).

But Stoute's basic points -- that the Grammys are often contradictory in their awards voting, and that they approach hip-hop with hostility -- aren't totally unfounded. The Album of the Year winners are generally Starbucks-friendly, and the only hip-hop group to win the award was The Roots (whom I love, but who are also the least threatening hip-hop act worthy of the award).

What the organizers of the Grammys need to do is decide whether they want to represent musical excellence or cultural relevance. Over the last couple of decades, the artists and albums receiving awards have been popular and relevant, but they hardly create interesting music (U2 after 1990, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum). Or, they've been well-regarded in their respective genres, but only appeal to very distinct groups (Norah Jones, Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett).

Occasionally, NARAS finds a happy middle between commercial and critical success, dishing out significant awards to worthy artists like Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, and now, Arcade Fire. But most of the time they drop the ball. How is it that Radiohead (with a stable of great albums), and Kanye West (a man who pumps out great songs in his sleep), have yet to win the Album or Song of the Year awards?

Basically, the Grammys needs to realize they can't make everyone happy. Either support musical excellence, or just fully commit to echoing the sentiment of the masses. Because Stoute is right that the annual awards spectacle is awful right now.

[via Vulture]

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5 comments
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New.Band.Day
New.Band.Day

You want to talk about relevance? Well who buys a full page PRINT ad, no offense SF Weekly, but print is not the place to tell the world that you disagree with the Grammys. Even the Egyptians know this. Imagine if they bought a print ad...hell they wouldn't be able to, the ad would have been rejected. Take to the Twitters and Facebooks to make your point. Even NARAs checks out Twitter and Facebook. How else would they have found out about Esperanza Spalding or The Suburbs or Mumford and Sons or The Avett Bros. I have no problem with NARAs, or Arcade Fire. I have a problem with music executives who have been making money off other people's art for decades. My problem is that they broke the model for money and now they think they can fix it. It's over. Now let's take our Steve Stoute's and all the other destroyers and throw them aside so the people and the fans can rebuild this industry. There is no place to find new music because they killed the radio, the record store and now print. The people and the fans are trying, but I'm afraid the others are distracted with Facebook, Video Games and life. If you want the music industry to be relevant, stop pandering to the NY Times and NARAs and start thinking about the fans and the bands.

Russ Founder of New.Band.Day

Joe
Joe

Disagree. Why should the grammys be forced to have absolute garbage like Justin Beiber win just because it's popular? That's like saying the Oscars should just have Transformers 2 win just because it's popular. That doesn't change the fact that it's absolute garbage. I salute the Grammys for doing whats unpopular for the sake of art. Arcade Fire had BY FAR the best album of those 5 nominees (though imo not best of the year) and all these people complain even though they've never listened to Arcade Fire once! Listen to the gd music before you complain.

Also, didn't Lauren Hill and Outkast both win album of the year? I'm pretty sure they did....

And what hip hop should win. Eminem? Yeah, that's good music, "Tom green said f u, Christina Agulara is a b---"....come on.

akula2
akula2

Speaking about Oscars? Academy 'groups/politics' are even worst than Grammys. I could quote 100 examples which had controversies, snubs, prejudices and so on. One of the most wondering example is say Leonardo DiCaprio!

Bottom Line: Both Grammy and Ocsars have become irrelevant and governed by a bunch of morons!

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