Are Grammys bought by top grossers?

Sunday's show was venue for spectacle, favoritism for Top 40 hits; closing act Outkast redeemed otherwise misguided awards

One would think that a 46-year-old organization would have its priorities straight. The Grammy Awards has turned into a spectacle, muddling the definition of good music. Does an artist or band need to have a slot on the next NOW! compilation in order to merit such an award or be deemed musically talented? Apparently so.

Take Fountains of Wayne of recent "Stacy's Mom" fame. The band's career began with its 1996 self-titled debut, "Fountains of Wayne," which led it to open for none other than early-'90s music gods, The Smashing Pumpkins. Fountains' later achievements include an Oscar nomination for the theme song to the movie "That Thing You Do!" in 1997, and a sophomore album in 1999 that was a hit on college radio stations. It wasn't until 2003, when "Stacy's Mom" received widespread radio and television airplay, that the band received a Grammy nod. Not only that, it was in the "Best New Artist" category. New? New as in, now the song is on VH1 and we can acknowledge its existence. Come to think of it, what do the categories even mean? How can one pick a best album when so many genres of music and so many lesser-known artists go completely unrecognized? Granted, a person with musical tastes like mine was happy to see Radiohead nominated, but in the same category as Train? The Foo Fighters grouped with the likes of Evanescence and Nickelback?

I am pleased with the fact that Outkast won, and I give my support to the fact that Justin Timberlake took an award home for "Cry Me a River." Their singles and albums caught on so fast and were so widely enjoyed among different crowds of listeners that it's hard to deny and not recognize their success.

Nominations aside, what happened at the awards was ridiculous, considering the event overreacted about the breast controversy at the Super Bowl. Why should a past celebrity screwup interfere with music awards? Why did Timberlake feel the need to apologize to the audience for his "unintentional and completely regrettable" blip while accepting the award for best male pop vocal performance? I'd like to know when this stopped being about the music and started being about celebrity hype.

Even a five-minute delay couldn't fix Celine Dion's bad mics, and viewers everywhere heard the stage technicians yelling for backup because they cued the wrong button when radioing for it. Beyonce's mics fell down a few times in the opening number as well. If we can't get good and qualified nominees, at least give us a performance to take our mind off of things.

Outkast's performance redeemed the Grammys, and was a pick-me-up placed at the end to make the audience remember why it watched in the first place. The awards themselves need a boost and an update, but if a record's not selling and producing Top 40 hits, don't expect much from it.

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