I never thought I’d say it, but: well done, ARIA
Based on the Grammy nominations, you’d also assume rock is, literally, dead. Along with nods to lively upstart AC / DC youngsters Paul McCartney and Foo Fighters, the Best Rock Album category featured a nomination for Chris Cornell, who died in 2017. To be fair, I guess he’s impressive. to strum a chord of power beyond the grave.
As for what is apparently the most prestigious musical accolades in the world – the accolades that, like the Oscars, function as a historical barometer of what culture values most in music each year – this is all quite embarrassing. If this truly represents the best music of 2021, I’m ready for the monsters of A quiet place attack.
Perhaps more glaringly than its lack of taste, however, is the Grammy Academy’s defense of its most offensive nominations, which included a better comedy album for self-confessed sex pest Louis CK and multiple potential wins for Marilyn Manson ( thanks to his co-credit on Kanye West Donda and Jail), who is currently the subject of various sexual assault prosecutions. (Another nomination that divides comedian Dave Chappelle in the best spoken words category was at least for his referencing to George Floyd 8:46 special, not his recent controversial Netflix special).
After some criticism, Grammys general manager Harvey Mason Jr defended the Recording Academy’s picks, saying, “We won’t look at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal records, we won’t look at anything other than legality. in our rules, is this recording for this work eligible based on date and other criteria. If so, they can submit for review.
It’s a strange line in the sand. To borrow a phrase from Joe Strummer, “If Adolf Hitler arrived today, they would send a limo anyway.”
Contrasting with the Grammys mess of its endless controversies – which last year also included allegations of “rigging, favoritism and racism” leading to reforms around its voting processes, as well as allegations of sexual harassment by from ousted former boss Deborah Dugan – ARIA organizers deserve some praise.
Last month, ARIA stripped former Sony Music boss Dennis Handlin of an icon award he received in 2014, after allegations of a toxic work environment at the label while he was its manager general. Handlin – once a regular feature of the ARIA ceremony, both in attendance and in the (apparently commissioned) acceptance speech – was absent and ignored from this year’s ceremony.
Unlike the Grammys, it seems ARIA organizers have understood that big institutions, even if they just clink glasses to the local state of music, have a responsibility for what they celebrate and what they contribute to culture at large.
With all due respect to Tony Bennett (who From rags to riches scene in Goodfellas is a work of art) and the ghost of Chris Cornell, I prefer a world where an ambitious and exciting piece of work by a young Ghanaian-Australian rapper is rightly recognized as the musical gem of the year. I never thought I’d say it, but: well done, ARIA. Ultimately.