The Grammys Remove 31 Award Categories, Remain Utterly Irrational

A totem of absurdity

​You might think it irrational, pointless, and shallow to waste one's energy getting upset about music awards shows, but last February's Grammy Awards filled us with such bubbling rage, we almost threw the cat at the TV.

It wasn't Cee-Lo's chicken outfit that did it. It wasn't even Katy Perry on that goddamn swing or Barbara Streisand doing her best to bore us out of remembering what a valuable artist she once was.

No, our main beef initially lay with the fact that the Grammys were persisting with having both Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year awards. Which -- unless you are a crack-smoker -- are clearly the same thing. Was this some kind of elaborate hoax? An in-joke? Or just an evil plot to make the world feel like it was taking crazy pills? We didn't know, either.

Then, when both awards went to the same artist -- Lady-bastard-Antebellum, to add insult to injury -- it felt as if the Recording Academy was leaning down into our tiny, confused faces, cackling like a gigantic super-villain and just plain mocking us. We pledged, henceforth, to never pay attention to this silly awards ceremony ever again.

But, as we all know, "ever again" in music-blogger years is about seven weeks, so when the Grammy's announced yesterday that it's they were cutting 31 categories for next year's awards, we couldn't help but sit up and ask "Doesn't that only leave about nine?"

No, no, dear readers. Turns out, the Grammy's gave out a whopping 109 awards this year. Next year it'll only be 78... Phew!

Except, wait a second... Doesn't that still seem like a lot to you? Surely the point of awards is to publicly tell someone -- using the bizarre communications tool of a shiny statuette (we genuinely would like to know who came up with that) -- that they are the best of the best. If there's 78 awards going out annually, that doesn't really feel like the best of the best. It feels like weird music industry code for being terrified about leaving someone out. And 109! What on earth could all those be for?

Well, helpfully, the Recording Academy has posted a handy comparative chart showing us all the categories of this year alongside all the categories we can expect next year. 

While we applaud the move to stop separating the men from the women in certain categories (it's not like this was ever boxing, people), we do have to wonder aloud why the categories remain so bloody long-winded? Why do we need a Best R&B Performance and a Best Traditional R&B performance? It's all R&B, isn't it?

And if New Age, Alternative, Reggae, Pop, Comedy, and Spoken Word are limited to only having a Best Album category, why the bejesus should Dance get a Best Recording one as well? Why are Gospel and Contemporary Christian lumped together when it comes to Performance but given separate categories from each other for Song and Album awards? 

There is still virtually nothing rational or sane about the structure of these awards.

We had a look and figured out how they could trim it down to 45 categories without leaving anyone out -- and it took us about five minutes. So why don't they? Probably because the Academy likes making its job look far more complicated and important than it actually is.

Oh, and yes. Joy of joys -- at the 2012 54th Grammy Awards, we can still look forward to tearing our hair out through both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year categories.

We will stop being annoyed when they can tell us what the difference is.

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After finally researching, it makes sense what the difference is between "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year" -- however, the naming of them is confusing. "Record of the Year", is also a single track -- but it doesn't have to be released as a single, which "Song of the Year" does. That's the only difference. The idea being that ANY track on ANY album, if submitted for the category, can be considered for the award.


I'm not sure you quite get it yet. You mentioned "that's the only difference" but that is not the difference at all.

First -- you got it backwards: a "Song of the Year" (the recording of that song) can be released as any kind of track; a "Record of the Year" must be released as a single.

Second, the key (and only important) difference between these categories is the type of art or craft they are honoring (and the type of craftpersons). The naming of the categories is not at all confusing. A "record" is a recording. A "song" is a song. A "song" and a "record" are two entirely difference things. A "song" can be sung around the campfire. A "record" cannot be sung, because it is a device; it is a series of sounds as captured on a piece of tape or a hard drive or a CD or a disc of vinyl. So, clearly, "Record of the Year" honors all the people whose craft was used in capturing a particular performance of sounds onto a recording (and usually this recording is of the performance of a song). But "Song of the Year" honors a songwriter -- the person who wrote the song. A "song" exists whether it is ever recorded or not (but to win a Grammy it does need to be recorded and released of course).


Nnnnnnno. The reason isn't the old "make the job look complicated" ruse. It's politics, of course, as in every industry or company or industry. Politics between the divergent wings of the industry... each are trying hard to hang on to some of their turf. Obviously the "Metal" dudes didn't want to lose their opportunity for an award to the mere "Hard Rockers," -- but look, wow, it's been merged! Likewise, the trad R&B gang doesn't want to be devalued by competing with that Contemporary R&B crap. But, one must note -- even with politics still strong -- consensus was actually achieved and the list is waaaaaay way more logical than in the past. The changes really do make the Grammys pretty sensible.

As for "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year"... the difference between those is dirt simple. A "record" is just that: it's a recording (a tape, a disc, bits and bytes on a computer -- and all the work that goes into capturing the performance on it). A "song" is what the songwriter writes; it's melody and lyric, it's the idea, it's in the air. You might as well ask why the Oscars has both a "Best Picture" and a "Best Screenplay" award.

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