ARYA’S NOTES: Episode 17

Arya may be in India for a month, but he still wanted to weigh in on each of our topics, and let us know what he’s been up to. Here’s his notes for Episode 17: The Question of Quantifying Quality. Enjoy.

What Have I Been Up To This Week?

 Adam Green & Binki Shapiro at the Doug Fir
Honestly, it was kind of inspiring. Adam Green has an oddly charismatic presence. Goofy and engaging, a real monkey man with limber movements
Ben Folds Five at the Roseland
A dream come true. Never thought I’d see BFF — they were good. There were a lot of songs I wish they had played but hell almost every old hit they played made me grin ear to ear and some even cry. “Battle Of Who Could Care Less” literally killed me, and I was a ghost when I sang along to every word of “Army”. An absolutely engaging performance from a gang of unpretentious, among the least likely rock stars of their generation
Benjamin Francis Leftwich
This dude’s got next. Seriously. British singer songwriter, charming as hell, great songs, great voice, great presence. He sat on the edge of the stage at one point, unmiced. and then for the one song encore had everybody sit on the floor with him while he played the song “Atlas Hands”. I honestly look forward to seeing him billed at bigger  venues in the years to come.
By the time you record this I’ll also have seen Helio Sequence and Talkdemonic with Yeti Sweater at Cleveland High School. It was special.
What Am I Up To This Week?
Being in India, ballin’ so hard.
The Question of Qualifying Quality
Award ceremonies in general can be dismissed as rich people jerking each other off but the fact is everyone of them are achieving something that we can aspire to – to be voted by our peers the best in our field. The moments are dramatic, the anticipation is relatively thick(hint: most performers win), and the speech by the guy who runs the RIAA is usually cloying.

Unlike the American Music Awards which is judged purely on record sales or the People’s Choice Awards, which is judged purely by popular vote, the Grammy nominees are more often than not a painfully carefully selected bunch of relatively deserving people who are selected by their peers.

Like its movie industry equivalent the Oscars, the Grammys honor every aspect of the industry, from producing, to packaging, to songwriting.

Also like their film equivs, the Grammys have gotten a lot of shit wrong over the years. Don’t even think about historically(Dylan’s first Grammy came in 1978 for Best Gospel Performance), you’ll get an aneurysm I hated Steely Dan for years because they beat Paul Simon and Eminem for Album of the Year. Only a painfully outdated group of people would vote Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute album album of the year (that’s TWO old farts!)

but the thing is this —- these awards are won by a plurality of the vote. a number not revealed to us determines who has won the award. it isn’t necessarily a majority[51%] of the academy, it’s simply a plurality that means it could be somebody winning with 38% The performers at this year’s grammys are the usual painfully trite mainstream pop ratings boosters, like the trainwreck that is Rihanna, and the hack that is Bruno Mars – but in some ways this year more than ever feels like they are starting be in touch with not only what is hot right now but also what is good – The Black Keys and The Jack White and The Frank Ocean are all up for major awards and will be performing — Black Keys and White have been at this game for well over a decade but probably feel like overnight success stories to the ballot punchers at the RIAA. Ocean meanwhile is a relative wunderkind (please read his New York Times cover story and continue to bask in the glow of his success)

if fun. wins and frank doesn’t, are the grammys getting it wrong as usual ? When Arcade Fire won Album of the Year was that a fluke? When they get it wrong does it make the fact that they get it right any less right? Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile. If somebody we do like wins, that’s good for them. We should be happy for them. Their record sales will go up, their exposure will have increased, and their comfort to make their art will be further ensured. Who are we to begrudge them success and happiness?

There are artists who are Grammy darlings (Paul Simon),Grammy one off success stories (Christopher Cross being the most infamous example), and artists deserving who weirdly never win. What was once the anti establishment movement of rock and roll of the 60s is now the establishment and the old guard. What was once the counterculture of “original” Punk has since been celebrated with tributes to Joe Strummer.

And then there is the question of quantifying quality. can it be done? should it ? is s a 7.0, a B-, a thumbs up or down, an award really the final statement on any piece of art? or simply another piece of information to take in to consideration when assessing it for yourself? why is a system of letter and number grades so specifically prevalent in reviewing the popular arts when fine arts dont have to deal with such pandering metrics? Picasso probably never got a 9.1 from an art critic. Pollock never got a 6.3. Both are considered among the greats.

I’m Arya Imig.

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