As if the Grammys didn't have enough credibility issues, NARAS, the organization that controls the process, has left a loophole large enough for a complete unknown to manipulate her way onto the final ballot in the Americana category.
The news broke two days ago in Variety that virtual unknown Linda Chorney had employed the organization's interactive Grammy 365 site to connect with voting members and get her music heard. Somehow she got enough members to vote for her to get her album Emotional Jukebox on the final ballot with Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Ry Cooder, and Lucinda Williams, who have collected among themselves 23 Grammys.
On one hand, we have to applaud Chorney for her effort and determination and for her ability to work the system to her advantage. On the other hand, after hearing her music, we want to projectile vomit.
Problems abound with Chorney's nomination. For one, it knocked out much more deserving artists like Hayes Carll, whose KMAG YOYO and Other American Stories was one of the most played Americana albums of the year in terms of radio spins. Carll's song "Another Like You" was honored as the Number One song of the year by American Songwriter magazine. Chorney didn't make the top fifty. According to Sound Scan numbers, she hasn't moved a single copy of the album, yet she's on the ballot. Sorry, that ain't right.
And let's face it, a Grammy really may not mean all that much career-wise to Lady Gaga or Rihanna, but the award has huge meaning to the careers of artists like Carll, Jason Isbell, Brian Wright, Sarah Jarosz, the Gourds and others who have proved themselves by touring constantly and recording startlingly good albums that received almost universal critical acclaim. Chorney's wan, beyond-lame, easy-listening album sounds like the soundtrack to a bad Lifetime Channel drama, a verbal Hallmark card. Shelby Lynn, who also was not nominated, can eat Chorney for breakfast.
Others online have speculated that Chorney's inclusion is a ploy by the people who promote and televise the Grammy awards show to create controversy and drum up some additional audience after the ratings drop-off most awards shows have been experiencing. We love a good conspiracy theory as well as the next paranoid schizophrenic, but it seems unlikely they would want to create the controversy in a category that so few potential viewers care about. Let's face it, 99 percent of all people who listen to Americana don't watch these over-blown reality-show-like awards fiascos. Now if Chorney was in there duking it out with Bieber, someone might give a damn.
Still, the larger question is: who are these music experts and cultural tastemakers/gatekeepers whom Chorney was able to persuade that she belonged on the ballot? We'd like to think that the folks vetting the final ballot would have good enough ears to weed out albums like Chorney's without so much as a second thought. But long time music industry veteran Greg Ellis noted on Facebook that these are the same people who "voted for Taste of Honey over Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and the Cars."
As for Chorney's successful campaign to insinuate her tepid album into the finals, Ellis quipped, "Just because you can make a retard dance don't make it right."
We second Mr. Ellis's opinion. Linda Chorney, do the right thing: Withdraw your nomination now. Grammy idiots: How about next year you have a category called Non-Deserving Performer With Best Manipulation of the System?