12 February 2007

The Politics of Music Awards

I have never paid much attention to the Dixie Chicks musically; their's struck me mostly as standard, over-produced Nashville country sound. It was, I think, interesting to see how the country music establishment responded to Natalie Maines' exercise of free speech a while back. But I don't really want to talk about that either. What I want to call attention to is the divergence in the awards they've won (or not) this year as reported by the New York Times:

Defiant Dixie Chicks Are Big Winners at the Grammys

After death threats, boycotts and a cold shoulder from the country music establishment, the Dixie Chicks gained sweet vindication Sunday night at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, capturing honors in all five of the categories in which they were nominated. ...

The Dixie Chicks took home Grammys for the top three awards: record, song and album of the year. Their “Taking the Long Way” (Open Wide/Columbia) won best country album and “Not Ready to Make Nice” also captured best country performance by a duo or group with vocal. ...

Sunday’s awards were the Recording Academy’s rejoinder to the country music radio establishment, which ignored the album. ...

The Dixie Chicks’ sweep of the major Grammy categories served as a sharp counterpoint to their shut-out at the Country Music Association awards in November. The Recording Academy consists of members across the nation who work in all genres of music. The Country Music Association’s membership is concentrated among artists, engineers and executives tied to the Nashville establishment."
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So, what accounts for the discrepancy? Are the voters in the CMA more or less liberal than those for the Grammys? Is this Nashville vs. L.A.? Or are the former just more attuned to what they think are the political views of their audience? Or are they worried about the possible reactions of advertisers and sponsors of the "country" broadcast industry? Will winning all the Grammys help or hurt the Chicks's reputation back in Tennessee?

I guess I listen to different folks from Nashville like Steve Earle or Buddy Miller (check out his long version of 'With God on Our Side" on Universal United House of Prayer [2004]) and so think of the population there as considerably less homogeneously conservative than The Times might have us believe.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but Steve Earle hasn't gotten radio play on mainstream country radio in years. There is a key distinction between the Nashville establishment (as represented by the component parts of the CMA) and the many divergent performers and musicians who make Nashville their home (see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings for another example).

12 February, 2007 17:25  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Gillian Welch is a California girl! I know Earle & Miller are not in the mainstream of country music - after all neither wears a big hat - but they do get a lot of listeners in the "heartland"; and Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, for example, are hardly nutty right wingers either. I just think that the folks on the coasts should be careful how they paint folks who live in between.

12 February, 2007 18:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Country , GET OVER IT. How many of you will have severely wounded come home and no MEDICAL CARE once the military medically Boards them? The VA can't handle them! And who is responsible - Why your wonderful president who hasn't a clue because he is dumb country (college don't make a leader.) I despise country music because it is really a sick sound and your whining just proves you are too lazy to think the issues through! Go Dixie Chicks!

12 February, 2007 21:30  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon; Have you got any idea what you are talking about? Maybe you should read a few posts here before you shoot your mouth off ...

12 February, 2007 22:46  
Blogger Hans said...

Man, some of these anonymous posts are just... bonkers.

13 February, 2007 04:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi- I'm anonymous #1. I did want to clarify that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings do indeed currently reside in Nashville, in spite of her California roots. I think this is further demonstration of the eclecticism of the Nashville scene, as it serves as a destination for all sorts of musicians from all over the country. This does complicate the dichotomy between Nashville and the coasts. Still, I'm also ready to get behind the tired blue state/red state argument. Good music is good music regardless of who's listening to it

13 February, 2007 20:02  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Dan

I agree about the crciterion for assessing music. I was just easing re: Welch and Rawlings. I think they are terrific even if she did go to UC Santa Cruz!

15 February, 2007 18:29  
Blogger Unknown said...

Gillian and Natalie both went to Berkley School of Music. Wonder if there is any connection...

09 March, 2007 16:21  

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