Aaron R. Davis
No, I didn’t watch the Grammys this weekend. I never watch the Grammys because I really don’t care.
What I did watch, though, was this horrific unfolding of anger online when Taylor Swift won Album of the Year and Lady Gaga didn’t.
Yes, the lost generation of social media morons who have no future decided that Sunday night was a war between fans of Taylor Swift and fans of Lady Gaga, and who deserved to win an award that has no bearing on what anyone listens to.
This is what Americans deem worthy of righteous anger and drawing lines in the sand. Not government overspending on endless wars. Not regulating the banks that caused the economy to nearly collapse. Not gay civil rights or world hunger or health finance reform. None of that is worth leaving the house for. No, the majority of people I saw take to the Internet last night were really, really pissed off that Taylor Swift won the Album of the Year Grammy and Lady Gaga did not.
It’s scarily weird the amount of nationalism that comes with pop culture. I use the term nationalism because people have come to use their taste as identifiers instead of just, you know, personal preferences. We live in a world of football riots, after all. We live in a world where the anonymity of the Internet has fostered a bizarre kind of simmering, low-level hostility to the point where a prominent film critic can now receive death threats for giving an unfavorable review of The Dark Knight BEFORE the movie even comes out.
So while it’s not surprising to see people (most of them teenagers) taking to Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr to fight over who’s better, a girly carbon copy country star or the latest in a series of avant garde fads pretending to be more artistic than she actually is, it’s still strangely scary. Because there’s discussion, there’s debate and then there’s actual comments about how Taylor Swift should have her throat slashed for daring to be more momentarily popular than Lady Gaga. And that kind of shit just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I’m defending either artist; I just think it’s over the top that a minor aesthetic disagreement about what music one prefers warrants those kinds of psychotic comments.
The thing is, unless you’re in the music industry, does it really matter who wins a Grammy? Tell me, right off the top of your head: who won Album of the Year last year? Who won the last five? I have no idea. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to see that that Robert Plant/Alison Krauss thing won last year, and Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute album won the year before that. Is it a surprise that the most Baby Boomer-friendly album won this year? The Grammys are notoriously stodgy, no matter how much of a show they put on of pretending to be relevant.
And that’s not to slam Swift’s music as being stodgy. Or to praise Gaga’s as being fresh and hip. I don’t think either of those statements is true. But let’s look at this word relevant.
Does Lady Gaga’s album not winning the Grammy make it any less in your eyes? Do you actually need the validation of the same organization that gave this award to Steely Dan in 2001 over Eminem, Beck and Radiohead to somehow legitimize your love for Lady Gaga? Because if you do, you’ve probably got a lot of deeper self-esteem problems that are in bigger need of being addressed.
Seriously, Lady Gaga’s going to spin into obscurity now because she didn’t win this purposeless award that signifies no more than the majority opinion of … jeez, I don’t even know how they determine who wins the goddamn thing, anyway.
What I’m saying, in my bitchy way, is that whoever wins the Grammy has absolutely no influence on anyone’s listening habits, anyway. Are there more people who might check out Taylor Swift because she won Album of the Year? Maybe. Are there less people who are going to check out Lady Gaga because she didn’t? Probably not. Are there people who are suddenly going to stop listening to Lady Gaga because she didn’t win? Absolutely not. Should you stop listening to Lady Gaga and start only listening to Taylor Swift because of the Grammy decision? What are you, a moron?
Let me put it this way: Madonna was only nominated for this award one time, and not until 1999. Did her career suffer because of it? No. Because you know who you like and you don’t need anyone else to tell you whether you should or not.
So, you know, have a dialogue. Express your tastes. But don’t make them out to be a part of your personal identity. Don’t take personal offense when I don’t like Lady Gaga, and I won’t take personal offense when you don’t like Taylor Swift, because those preferences don’t make us who we are. They’re just things we like.
If we spent half of the energy we spend getting butt hurt whenever some awards board honored something we didn’t like on actual social change, this would be a world that wouldn’t have time to get angry over frivolous things like what music we listen to.
For the record, my favorite album in 2009 was Ocean Eyes by Owl City. I don’t need anyone to tell me if I’m “right” or not. It was the best for me, and you aren’t me, and I’m not you, and it absolutely does not matter.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.