Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Michael Jackson's American Music Awards nominations: Unfair?

October 13, 2009 |  3:07 pm


Music award shows are never the most current barometers of pop music. By the time the big galas get around to airing on television, many of the albums nominated date back to the prior calendar year.

The cut-off period for Grammy eligibility this year was Aug. 31, ensuring that all the major holiday releases, from Jay-Z to Leona Lewis, will not be represented when nominations are announced Dec. 2. But this year's American Music Awards completely throw the concept of an eligibility period out the window.

Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" will compete for favorite album in the pop/rock field against Lady Gaga's "The Fame" and Taylor Swift's "Fearless." Both of the latter have a decent shot at being represented at the upcoming Grammy Awards, but the latter won't feature any albums from Jackson.

That's because his "Number Ones" was released back in 2003. What's more, the album is simply a greatest hits compilation, featuring only a pair of songs actually released this decade. Regardless of retail impact, a 2009 award show should be restricted to albums actually recorded within its recent history. At last check, Jackson has already won plenty of American Music Award trophies for the songs on "Number Ones," including an artist of the century accolade in 2002.

A segment or two honoring Jackson would have been a better way to recognize the King of Pop's contributions to music. The MTV Video Music Awards opened with a tribute to the star, and the 2010 Grammy Awards will surely feature some sort of Jackson memorial. Yet giving the artist posthumous awards, especially when said artist hasn't released an album of new material since 2001, seems an unfair slight to today's current crop of pop stars.

If Jackson wins three or four of his five nominations (Pop & Hiss predicts a sweep), then the entire American Music Awards telecast will feel very much a tribute to Jackson. If reflecting the current sales landscape is purely the objective, then the American Music Awards succeeded at representing what is selling.

And yes, old and new fans are discovering Jackson's music in the wake of his June passing -- his "Number Ones" currently ranks as 2009's bestselling album, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- but an outpouring of sales and appreciation shouldn't come as unexpected after the death of such a legend.(To be fair, the American Music Awards are based on sales and radio data from Nielsen.)

In a fan-voted contest such as the American Music Awards, current pop stars such as Swift and Gaga probably don't stand a chance. Yet if fans thought it was an injustice that Kanye West had the audacity to interrupt Swift accepting a "Moon Man" at the MTV Video Music Awards, then they should be ready to riot if she's now losing awards to artists who haven't had a new song in nearly a decade.

-- Todd Martens

Photos: Michael Jackson at the 2002 American Music Awards. Credit: Getty Images. Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMAs. Credit: Getty Images