February 21, 2011 | 12:00pm
It looks like there's a new entry for the brilliant Who Is Arcade Fire? tumblr. Unfortunately, this one is longer than 140 characters -- by about a full page in The New York Times. Steve Stoute -- CEO of marketing company Translation and a veteran record executive -- took to The New York Times to effectively complain that Eminem, Kanye West and Justin Bieber all got wronged at last Sunday's Grammy Awards.
"Unfortunately, the awards show has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions, leaving me to question why any contemporary popular artist would even participate," Stout said in his open letter to the Grammys.
Oh, where to begin?
First of all, good for a former record executive to take the time and, most importantly, money to complain that he didn't get what he wanted at the Grammys. I don't imagine full-page ads in The New York Times come cheap these days, let alone for someone who was once in an industry notoriously strapped for cash.
Stoute was once Nas' on-again, off-again manager, helping brand the rapper after the commercial failure of his debut album Illmatic
. Stoute, then, knows a thing or two about hip hop, as his name is also linked to Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z. You would think that he could have argued on behalf of an artist that actually gave two shits about winning a Grammy -- someone other than Eminem. If him rapping against the Grammys on his 2000 hit song "The Real Slim Shady
" wasn't enough indication that Em doesn't much care for awards, then I don't quite know what to tell Stoute, other than you have to pick your battles a bit better.
Stoute's ad reads as a diatribe against interesting, compelling new music. It's as if he's saying, "Why are we even bothering to give new, refreshing artists a chance? Female jazz bassists from the Pacific Northwest and Quebecois indie rock bands don't matter. Bubblegum pop and stodgy, boring hip hop featuring Rihanna are what sells records. Therefore, they deserve these awards that no one cares about -- no one but me and my other insanely rich (therefore powerful) friends." Grammys of the past had played out much to Stoute's liking -- for about a decade -- yet the second that all changes, he is dropping some serious coin to force people to listen to his petty complaints.
It doesn't matter that 2011's edition of the Grammy Awards was the most watched broadcast since 2001
-- when people still bought records. It's not enough for Stoute to look at last Sunday night as a whole. No, he has to nitpick and complain about the two awards that 90% of the rest of the world are complaining about. More specifically, Stoute stated, "How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist?" Inserting opinion into an argument like that sure as hell doesn't help one's cause. And good lord, who regards Justin Bieber as an artist? "An artist
that defines what it means to be a modern artist
?" Knock that shit off.
He had the audacity to say that the Arcade Fire performing immediately before the Album of the Year Grammy was announced was somehow a result of the program directors' prior knowledge of the award winners, "Does the Grammys intentionally use artists for their celebrity, popularity and cultural appeal when they already know the winners and then program a show against this expectation?" You know who else performed last Sunday? Eminem. Yet I'm sure Stoute wouldn't mind at all had Eminem won for Album of the Year, which -- had it happened -- would have been a decision seemingly decided by a high school voting for prom queen.
Substance and actual musical talent -- not popularity and vocal talent -- won at the Grammys last Sunday. This, of course, wasn't enough for some people, and it never will be. However, kudos to Steve Stoute for taking to one dying industry to complain on the behalf of another dying industry. There are a myriad of other causes out there that could have used the money you wasted complaining about something that didn't go your way.
David once beat Goliath. Where's your full-page ad bitching about that?