Against all odds, the 2013 Grammys are not irrelevant--or, if you believe they've always been irrelevant, they've not become more irrelevant. They haven't become more relevant, either, to be sure; their recent attempt to rationalize the increasingly abstruse and parochial categories was worthwhile--I suppose we can do without Best Rock Instrumental Performance, at least until Yngwie Malmsteen is unfrozen from cryosleep to battle that sea-wyvern--but can only count for so much.
It's not their fault, really: The Grammys are inevitably a means of honoring bands who operate within the demographic that watches the Grammys, and that's going to get a little smaller--a little less monocultural--every year. But they've found a nice sideline, one that promises to extend their useful lifespan much longer than chasing relevance ever could: They've become a mechanism by which Twitter makes itself furious.
And Twitter loves being furious. Twitter is a lot of things--a news aggregator, a platform, a conversation, a place where people say "branding" over and over--but as it relates to the Grammys, it's an outrage machine. People, events, and entertainments bubble up that have committed some grievous cultural sin, and Twitter users compete to position themselves in the right way against it. In my own Twitter circle, most recently, this was people who had somehow discovered the #INeedMasculismBecause hashtag, and needed desperately to show each other how stupid they thought the concept of masculism was. It is much easier than showing each other our liberal arts degrees, I guess.
The Grammys, much like masculism, are at this point a fringe phenomenon that can be safely ignored if you're not interested in Bruno Mars and Sting finally collaborating on that Police song. (Though if you haven't put that liberal arts degree away yet, writing the words "Lacuna Out Of Heaven: Misprised Simulacra In The Work Of Bruno Mars" on a piece of paper will immediately grant you tenure at some state universities.) But why ignore something when you can get pissed off about it on Twitter?
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And so, by the end of the night it was clear there were two very separate demographics watching the 2013 Grammys: People who were pretty excited to see what this Fun. band was all about, and people who had finished making jokes about the name "Fun." three years ago and were super over it.
Twitter, for its part, helps both of those groups find each other and avoid their opposite numbers. That's one of the eerie things about it--unless you have two very divergent interests, most of the people you follow for one reason agree with you for a lot of different reasons.
This isn't an inherently bad thing, either for us or the Grammys; at least we're engaging something we disagree with philosophically, even if it's just to remind everyone how outraged we are that Chris Brown is still extremely rich and famous. And at least the Grammys are being watched by a generation that doesn't know or care who won what Grammy.
But the easy criticisms can sometimes drown out the hard ones. If we stopped watching, the people who are in charge of noticing that kind of thing--the social media interns, the ratings-watchers--might try to recalibrate the sound away from its current setting, baby-boomer-and-baby-boomer-revival. And if someone has a better idea for how a show celebrating the year in music should look and feel, I'd love to hear it. Not instead of the Grammys jokes, but in addition to them.