Gram­mys Count­down

When it comes to the vis­ual-me­dia cat­e­gories, what’s old is new again

Variety - - Contents - By CHRIS WILL­MAN

Vis­ual-me­dia cat­e­gories see a num­ber of high-pro­file en­tries this year from the likes of “A Star Is Born” and Child­ish Gam­bino.

IN A WAY, THE GRAM­MYS’ VIS­UAL me­dia-re­lated cat­e­gories are the ones that get us most in touch with the an­ces­tral roots of mu­sic. Be­cause be­fore there was dig­i­tal re­pro­duc­tion or vinyl or even wax cylin­ders, mu­si­cal per­for­mances were al­ways seen as well as heard. It’s not just the na­ture of celebrity that makes us want to see our stars in mu­sic videos or doc­u­men­taries; it’s the urge to get back to the camp­fire, or the sa­loon, or the opera house, where they were right there to be looked in the eye. The film, TV and Broad­way cat­e­gories don’t nec­es­sar­ily put the per­form­ers in front of us, but they show­case how mu­sic is the sound­track of our lives, and are usu­ally tied into a story, whether it’s P.T. Bar­num on screen or the true

great­est show — the one that’s go­ing on in our heads as we hum along.

These cat­e­gories tend to be buried as you scroll through the list of hun­dreds of Grammy nom­i­na­tions, but they rep­re­sent some of the key mu­sic flash­points of the past 12 to 15 months. There was prob­a­bly no mu­si­cal mo­ment that put more chills down more spines than Keala Set­tle and a back­ing en­sem­ble’s per­for­mance of “This Is Me” in “The Great­est Show­man” or on the film’s sound­track. Does the sin­gle peak­ing at No. 58 in the U.S. re­flect that? Ob­vi­ously not. (The U.K. charts, where it made it to No. 3, bet­ter re­flected the tune’s spir­i­tual ubiq­uity.) The Carters’ “Apeshit” didn’t make the top 10, ei­ther, but if there were a sci­en­tific chart for memes, it would have been No. 1 with a bul­let. If the sight of Jay-z and Bey­oncé drap­ing them­selves across ev­ery nook and cranny of the Lou­vre didn’t set off a ton of “How did they do that?” talk in your im­me­di­ate cir­cle, you may be hang­ing out around the wrong wa­ter cooler.

With all that said, can we just echo the im­mor­tal words of Agent Dale Cooper at the end of the “Twin Peaks” re­boot and ask: “What year is this?” Be­cause the Gram­mys’ stub­born in­sis­tence on their el­i­gi­bil­ity year stretch­ing from Oc­to­ber through Sep­tem­ber guar­an­tees that their best- of lists will be sig­nif­i­cantly off from any­body else’s best lists. (Hey, you imag­ine some­body say­ing back in the day, if the Jewish New Year can be in early fall, so can ours.)

Film-re­lated Grammy cat­e­gories tend to lag even more be­hind the cul­tural con­ver­sa­tion than the oth­ers, by virtue of pres­tige films — and their cor­re­spond­ing sound­tracks — tend­ing mostly to come out in the last quar­ter of a year. And so, yes, in Fe­bru­ary 2019, the Gram­mys will be con­sid­er­ing the im­pact of such 2017 fa­vorites as “This Is Me,” Suf­jan Stevens’ “Call Me by Your Name” song, and the scores for “The Shape of Wa­ter” and, no, not the most re­cent “Star Wars” movie but the “Star Wars” film-be­fore-last. Haven’t these grad­u­ated to be­com­ing part of the life­time achieve­ment con­ver­sa­tion by now?

But if the Gram­mys will serve no award be­fore its time, that doesn’t lessen the achieve­ments be­ing hon­ored in these cat­e­gories. Ex­pect the block­buster “Great­est Show­man” mu­sic to get some of the awards love here it was de­nied else­where — al­most cer­tainly for com­pi­la­tion sound­track, if noth­ing else. “This Is Me” has bet­ter odds of win­ning the prize for song writ­ten for vis­ual me­dia than the tune that beat it at the pre­vi­ous Os­cars, “Coco’s” “Re­mem­ber Me” — but it’s up against two 2018 pow­er­houses, Lady Gaga’s “Shal­low” and Ken­drick Lamar’s “All the Stars,” so any­thing could hap­pen in that cat­e­gory. Score sound­track is a le­git tossup, too, as big-name 2017 holdovers John Williams and Alexan­dre De­s­plat (the lat­est Os­car win­ner) could split the vote of folks with long mem­o­ries and fall to the fresher and more multi- eth­nic “Black Pan­ther,” from Lud­wig Görans­son.

Mu­sic video has the Carters, whose al­bum was re­ceived al­most as an af­ter­thought to their video, not bod­ing well, ver­sus a meme clip that stuck longer in the mem­ory and seems the like­li­est win­ner, Child­ish Gam­bino’s “This Is Amer­ica.” The mu­sic film cat­e­gory in­cludes doc­u­men­taries that ran the gamut from per­ceived hit jobs to ha­giogra­phies, but “Itzhak” and “The King” seem to have found that sweet spot.

Mu­si­cal the­ater al­bum is just not a fair fight: It throws in a TV cast al­bum, for “Je­sus Christ Su­per­star,” seen by 9 mil­lion-plus in one evening, ver­sus Broad­way shows that play to as few as 900 a night. There, Record­ing Academy mem­bers could think that John Leg­end al­ready has too many awards, or, con­versely, that Sara Bareilles and Al­ice Cooper de­serve what would be their first Gram­mys.


Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga per­form “Shal­low” in ”A Star Is Born.”

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