time to change the way we view music and the arts

Sorry, That Just Won’t Jazz with My Latin Style

Just like New York City Opera, has come in and out of earshot over months and months, (in particular, twice more this past week; all about dropping and losing key positions.) it seems the Grammys are on the receiving end of ongoing negative news and constant reminders of their slow deterioration as well.

Does anyone care to remember back to April when the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science had announced a serious trimming down of its award category numbers? I had mentioned the comparative before and after list in this post. You could call it a hyper-crash diet of the supposedly ‘spring cleaning nature.’ At least that was how NARAS was positioning itself about the changes. Decreasing numbers of submissions for many categories was their primary focus for condensing things. Although it didn’t make everyone happy or reflect a positive state of affairs for the music industry to say the least, the story gradually faded to the background without so much as a further, major newsworthy peep since then.

Until now….

Among of the casualties of category condensation and cutbacks, a group of musicians in the Latin Jazz category have apparently made good (or in this case bad) on a threat to sue NARAS and filed a suit this past Monday. The plaintiffs for this judicial undertaking are four men who “identify [themselves] as members of the academy.” Bobby Sanabria, Ben Lapidus, Mark Levine and Eugene Marlow aren’t pulling any punches, as their suit is being handled by the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Humorously enough though, thus far, the ordeal itself almost seems like a juvenile high school contest of punch for punch. It’s a ‘game’ siblings or guy friends sometimes will engage in, wherein one will hit the other in the arm and you keep going back and forth to see who can hit the hardest before one person gives up and that’s supposed to show which of the pair is stronger and tougher. Similar objective to a game of chicken, except chicken doesn’t implement immediate pain and the pain actually goes to the winner and loser if neither refuses to back down. All a very silly and unnecessary muscle bearing contest, both figuratively and literally, looking at each scenario.

According to how NARAS feels going into the suit, they seems to be taking the stance of confidently playing chicken rather than punch for punch. Why do I say that? Well, their response to Sanabria’s opinionated statement that “the academy’s decision [is] “the most blatant example of racism in the history of any arts organization.”,” displays an absolute certainty of painless victory, with an almost icy, corporate choice of verbiage –even inserting a mocking descriptor for added emphasis of arrogance:

“The Recording Academy believes this frivolous lawsuit is without merit, and we fully expect to prevail.”

The case has yet to get underway with any kind of major developments, but you can bet I’ll be intrigued to see who yields first to the legal pressure or if the entire issue will just become one, giant, splatter all over the industry road because neither party wanted to chicken out. In that case, the whole event might end up as a total knot of a mess that will have wasted away time, money and reputations and could have otherwise been completely avoided. Right now, from a practical standpoint, my gut feeling is on NARAS, but in a “that kind of miracle only happens in movies” kind of way, there’s a small part of me that finds the wording of Sanabria’s ‘biggest selling point,’ saying the cuts “could have a severe detrimental impact on the plaintiffs’ musical careers,” to have a decent amount of credibility –at least on paper. i mean, while the reputation points you gain from the category you win in might be relative depending on the category’s size, (let’s say your have won ‘category X’ several times on and off but ‘category X’ has never had more than three nominees as a time, versus a band that pulls a win from a category with an annual 10 nominees,) a Grammy is still a Grammy and it does have an impact on how at least some of the industry population and the music listening public as a whole looks at you. That implication might be changing as the years go on, but right now a Grammy under your hat still makes a difference. So let’s see where the gavel falls…

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