Looking back through music history upon the 34th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, it's shocking to recall that "The King" never reigned at music's highest honors: the Grammys.
Elvis never won best record, song or album of the year. Even more outrageous: The music artist widely viewed as the devil decades ago won just three Grammys, all in gospel categories for now largely forgotten religious recordings: "He Touched Me" (1972) and two versions of "How Great Thou Art" (1967, 1974).
Elvis was feared at the Grammys in the 1950s and 1960s because the Recording Academy represented the conservative music establishment, and Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other hip-shakers represented the barbarians at the gate. Amazingly, Elvis did get nominated for best record twice. In 1959, "A Fool Such as I" lost to Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," and, one year later, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" lost to Percy Faith's "A Theme from 'A Summer Place.'"
Response tallies: 63.29% (1,000 votes) said she deserved to win; 15% (237) said rival nominee Kanye West should've won for "Graduation"; 11.96% (189) voted for the Foo Fighters' "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace; 6.71% (106 votes) said Hancock deserved to win; and 3% (48 votes) believed Vince Gill should've prevailed for "These Days."
Below, some snarky remarks from the comments section of our poll:
Sam Lunt: "If she hadn't just died, no one would care about the Grammys from three years ago. If she hadn't just died, there would not be so many voting that she was robbed. After JFK was killed, a poll was taken and one of the questions was 'Did you vote for JFK or Nixon?' 75% answered that they voted for Kennedy. In the actual election, it was almost a 50-50 split in the popular vote between Kennedy and Nixon. I think this is a similar situation."
Walter O. Neal: If the Grammys were about Artistic Excellence you would see more singers who sang, musicians who play instruments and musical artists who do both at the same time! Apparently, Amy Winehouse didn't measure up to their pathetically low bar."
Jay Gant: "Grammys are a joke. Want proof? Two words: Milli Vanilli."
Brendan Gale: "Lucky to get a Grammy at all! Just a kid who knew the shape of a bottle and how to drive on white lines.
When Amy Winehouse competed at the Grammys in 2008, she won five of her six nominations: best record, song and new artist of the year; best female pop vocal and best pop vocal album. The only race she lost was for album of the year. "Back to Black" got trounced by Herbie Hancock's "River: The Joni Letters."
Many music critics would argue that "Back to Black" was a better album than "River" and it certainly had much better sales. But gooey-hearted Grammy voters love to hug beloved old veterans in that race such as Steely Dan ("Two Against Nature," 2001), Santana ("Supernatural," 2000) and Bob Dylan ("Time Out of Mind," 1998), even when winners don't deserve it -- such as Ray Charles ("Genius Loves Company," 2005) and Tony Bennett ("MTV Unplugged," 1995). It can be argued that Winehouse simply got trounced by that quirky voting trend.
Of course, it can be argued that Kanye West's "Graduation" or one of the other nominees really deserved to win best album of 2008 instead of Winehouse or Hancock, but let's stay focused on Winehouse.
When Winehouse won five Grammys in 2008, she tied Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones and Beyonce for the record of achieving the most wins by a female artist in one year. If only Winehouse had won best album, she would've set a new record that would still stand today. Beyonce went on to win six in 2010, but she merely would've tied Winehouse.
If Winehouse had won best album, she would've entered a lofty Grammy pantheon occupied only by Christopher Cross. In 1981, Cross became the only music artist to win all of Grammy's top four awards: record, song, album and new artist of the year. Winehouse would've become the seventh artist to win the triple crown (best record, song and album) in one year after Carole King (1972), Christopher Cross (1981), Eric Clapton (1993), Santana (2000), Norah Jones (2003) and Dixie Chicks (2007).
Beyonce Knowles has 16 Grammy Awards, which is the third-largest tally among female recording artists after Alison Krauss (26) and Aretha Franklin (18). However, she's never won the top trophies for record or album of the year. It looks as though her latest CD, "4," has a good shot at a nomination for best album, but which tune might make the list for best record? Below are the views of some of the posters in our forums. Pipe in with your own comments and vote in our poll.
Leobas: "End of Time," no question. It's the freshest song in the album, has terrific Diplo/Switch production and awesome vocals by Beyoncé, with a chorus that sounds like Michael Jackson meets 2011. But we all know she won't get a nomination without a hit, and her first two singles don't stand a chance.
A_Mb88: "Best Thing I Never Had" can go in since it has some recognition as a single and it fits some [of] the unofficial record of the year rules (live instruments, single, decent message). So far based on the singles, it's "Best Thing I Never Had." Songs that have good chances if released are "I Care" and "End of Time."
DJWolff: She could get nominated for the track most likely to become a smash hit first, and "End of Time" has good chances to be that hit. Personally, I would rather "I Was Here."
Gucci: Beyonce won't get a record of the year nomination this time around.
DoubleD: Yeah I'll go with "End of Time," too, since it's the only song on the album that has the potential to be an anthem. But Beyonce only gets record of the year nominations for #1 singles: "Say My Name" (#1), "Crazy In Love" (#1), "Irreplaceable" (#1). The only exception is "Halo" (#5), but her label submitted her #1 single ("Single Ladies") to song of the year. So unless "End of Time" blows up in the next few months, this will be the first album that Beyonce doesn't receive a record of the year nom.
Guru: I think the best song on "4" is "I Was Here." She could score a fifth record of the year nomination if she releases "I Was Here" as a single.
Tara Lauder: There is like nothing out right now besides Adele that qualifies for record of the year. Beyonce will easily get in for anything she submits. I have to give it to her team, they really know the perfect times to release her material.
After sweeping the Tonys last month with "The Book of Mormon," Trey Parker and Matt Stone may be on their way to getting the elusive EGOT. That's the grand slam of showbiz peer-group awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
With four Emmys under their belts for animated program for "South Park" (2005, 2007-2009) and four Tonys for "Mormon," these partners and best friends are only missing the Oscar and the Grammy.
At first glance, it may seem premature to call these guys EGOT front-runners, but when next year's Grammys are taken into consideration, things get more interesting. "Book of Mormon" is a shoo-in to win the next Grammy for musical cast album.
That means all they'll need next is the Oscar. Back in 2000, Parker was nominated for an Academy Award for the original song "Blame Canada" from the "South Park" movie. Stone was left off the ballot because he didn't contribute to the lyrics. Now that they're on a hiatus between seasons of "South Park," one wonders if they're eyeing their next movie project. No plans have been announced yet for "Book of Mormon" to be adapted to the big screen, but that's certainly a future possibility.
If Parker and Stone are lucky enough to win the EGOT, they'll join 10 other artists who've won all four industry awards in competitive categories: Mel Brooks, John Gielgud, Marvin Hamlisch, Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Mike Nichols, Richard Rodgers, Jonathan Tunick and the most recent EGOT winner in 2002, Whoopi Goldberg.
"Why don't the Grammys ever win a top Emmy?" a veteran Emmy watcher asked me recently. "Every year they win Emmys in the crafts categories for things like sound mixing and lighting direction, which proves that it's an award-worthy show, but the Grammys never win best variety special or special class — the top program award. That usually goes to the Tonys or the Oscars. The Grammys don't even get nominated. Why?"
Fascinating question! Certainly, the Grammys are a spectacular awards show, packed with high energy, technical dazzle (spinning lights and stages) and powerhouse performances by music legends at the top of their game. As a physical production, the Grammys are far more ambitious and complicated than the Oscars or Tonys and, as a show, it's usually much more exciting. So why is it the only major award show not nominated by the Emmys in the top race? Heck, even the Golden Globes telecast — which doesn't even have production numbers — was nominated in recent years (2007 — when it didn't even have a host).
I posted the question in our message boards to see what comments it would generate. I agree with the frequently expressed opinion that the Grammys are penalized for no longer being an award show. Years ago, there used to be more awards presented on the ceremony than music numbers staged. Then, about 10 years ago, there were roughly the same (about 16). Now there are fewer than a dozen awards bestowed. The Grammys exist chiefly as a music variety special — a superb one, mind you — but it's a cheat nowadays, and voters at the TV academy, who take their awards very seriously, refuse to give the show Emmys above the crafts races.
Below are some comments from our forums. See more here.
AwardsMadness101: It's my least favorite awards show of the year. I tune in to see the best of the best honored. Instead, I'm given a slew of performances with a few awards thrown in.
Turtle: it's likely the main reason the Grammys aren't considered is that it's basically a concert designed to hawk product with awards an afterthought.
rcamp: Look at the way the Grammys cut their award lists this year. Do you really think they care about winning awards?
Duncan: Instead of it being a Who's Who of the music industry to Emmy voters, it's more of a Who's That? to them. They couldn't remember half of the people who perform on that telecast. Believe it or not, when the Rap, Hip Hop & Pop artist perform most of the voters change the channel! The artist who are the most popular and have sold the most CDs that particular year are the ones who perform on the show. They usual appeal to the under 21 crowd. Most Emmy voters are over 30.
— Tom O'Neil
Photo: National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
Many pundits claim Scotty McCreery is poised to squash Lauren Alaina and emerge as the new "American Idol" champ. Win or lose, he's defied the odds to survive this far, so that begs the question: Can he launch a successful music career -- the kind that wins Grammys and other music trophies?
Past "American Idol" champs haven't fared well at the Grammys -– with two exceptions. Carrie Underwood (a country crooner like McCreery) has won five Grammys, including best new artist. Kelly Clarkson has won two in the pop categories.
However, many "Idol" also-rans such as Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert have had breakout careers. So maybe it's best that he doesn't win?
The radical revamping of the Grammy Awards will reduce the number of categories from 109 at the last awards show to 78, and will achieve this in part by lumping various current categories into one. The move is getting mixed reactions. Below are some comments from our Grammy message boards. See more here.
Atypical: That's pretty awful to combine the male/female performance categories into a solo category like that, and then lump instrumental solo into that too and cap it at five nominees. Booooo. My head's spinning from all of this ish.
Beastialg: The unification of the pop categories will cause a massive migration of submissions to other categories, especially the dance ones. Pity, since I think a lot of great "under the radar" artists like Robyn or true dance electronica artists will have a harder time getting there.
Troy: Wow. People like Beyonce, Kanye, Alicia, better thank their lucky stars they have accumulated the number of Grammy's they have. This change is definitely going to make it more competitive and prevent artists from racking up 15 Grammy's in a short amount of time.
mjsbigblog: OMG I would NOT want to be around Beyonce when she sees this.
Criss808: THE BIGGEST SHOCK IN MUSIC OF 2011
Guru: Less categories and less nominees does not guarantee quality. All bets are off. No one is a front-runner.
DoubleD: I absolutely love this change. If you want to win a Grammy, then you'll have to earn it. Grammy voters have been nominating way too much garbage lately. I mean look at the forgettable filler that clogged up the pop, rock and R&B fields these past few years. Unfortunately, this change may make it harder for under the radar acts to win Grammys especially in the R&B field.
The Grammys are getting a major face lift. The Recording Academy held a news conference Wednesday morning at its Santa Monica headquarters to announce a complete revamp of its musical categories,– reducing the number of categories from 109 at the last awards show to 78.
It is also changing the way academy members vote for nominees and reworking the way categories are added and eliminated from the ceremony. “All categories wil remain, they’ll just be found in different genres” said President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow. “The message isn’t about cutting, it’s about changing the way we present the awards. We welcome all artists who make music in the Grammy process, it’s just going to look a little different.”
The number of categories has expanded over the years from an original 28 in 1959, evolving one category at a time on a piecemeal basis and “without an overall vision” said Portnow. The result has been more of a “collage,” he said. To give the Grammys a more cohesive structure that better matches the current musical landscape, in 2009 the organization initiated a sweeping, comprehensive evaluation of both the award categories and voting process.
The result of that process is the reworking announced Wednesday morning. The awards and nominations committee spent more than a year reviewing the process, said five-time Grammy Award winner and songwriter/record producer Jimmy Jam. It then submitted its recommendations to the Recording Academy’s board of trustees “with the greater purpose of promoting unity in our music community,” Jam said. The results were approved by the board, which directs the vision of the organization.
Over time, the number of categories and genre distinctions had resulted in curious and at times confusing nominations. In 2009, comedy rap group Lonely Island received a nomination in the best rap song category, when the original version was a "Saturday Night Live" clip. That same year, Hall & Oates was nominated for best pop performance by a group or duo with vocals for a live version of a song that was a hit nearly 30 years earlier. And in one of the most notable instances of genre confusion, in 1989 progressive rock group Jethro Tull won the award for best heavy metal album. The restructuring of the voting process is intended to address these frustrations.
Now that Britney Spears is topping the music charts with her seventh studio album, "Femme Fatale," she'll soon —uh-oh! — be back in the Grammy derby again.
That's ominous news considering how Spears has fared at music's top awards show in the past. While she's won other major kudos (10 Billboard Awards, four MTV Music Video Awards), Britney's only nabbed one Grammy, and she's never been nominated in the top three categories: best album, record or song of the year. When she was nommed for Grammy's fourth-highest honor -– best new artist -– in 2000, the result was catastrophic: She lost to rival diva Christina Aguilera.
Of eight past nominations, Britney's only Grammy victory was for "Toxic" as best dance recording of 2005. Does that mean that she's a real femme fatale as far as the top Grammys are concerned?
The 29-year-old's turbulent personal life appears to have quieted down. But just this week she stumbled into another PR bobble when Enrique Iglesias tried to ditch their joint concert plans. And now she's been slapped with a sizable lawsuit related to her perfume line.
Of course, these PR and legal kerfuffles aren't entirely Britney's fault. But it's possible Grammy voters will pick up on this news and decide they still don't want to welcome her into their inner circle. Don't forget -- showbiz trophies are first and foremost about hugs. Winners are typically those the awarding bodies feel good about embracing.
Don't agree? Here are two shining examples: Eminem and Kanye West. Controversy follows them both as regularly as night follows day. West, especially, is prone to massive hissy fits when he feels disrespected. Grammy voters are happy to nominate both artists in genre categories and even for such marquee awards as album, record and song of the year. But despite critical and commercial praise, they never win those top trophies.
Dance-pop music is sizzling hot once again thanks to Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Pink. And Spears has the technical wizardy of hitmaker Max Martin, among others, contributing to "Femme Fatale." It would seem she is a cinch for Grammy gongs in the dance and pop categories.
But will her reputation for unpredictability -- deserved or not -- continue to strike a sour note with music insiders?