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COUNTERPUNCH

On show, there's just one ideal: the music

March 01, 2003|Ken Ehrlich | Ken Ehrlich was the producer of the 45th annual Grammy Awards.

Once again, I find myself somewhat in awe of Robert Hilburn's wonderful sense of misdirection ("More idols than ideals," Feb. 24). Like a master magician, he likens the weaknesses of this year's Grammy show to "American Idol" in his lead, and then goes on to point out the remarkable performances of Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and Norah Jones almost as an afterthought.

And most notably, he totally neglects to mention several pieces of the show that have garnered universal acclaim, such as the Simon and Garfunkel opening, the historic Bruce-Elvis Costello-Dave Grohl-Steve Van Zandt tribute to Joe Strummer, a heartfelt tribute to the Bee Gees featuring a musically perfect a cappella medley performed by 'N Sync, and the house-shattering combination of Coldplay with members of the New York Philharmonic on "Politick" (a very political song).

Did he nod off during half the show or what?

To spend half his column bemoaning the fact that few artists drew the upcoming war into their acceptance speeches when in fact the program showcased some amazing musical moments only pointed up how far he had to reach to find fault with the show. As producers, we neither promote nor censor our honorees' remarks, but likewise have no input into what they choose to express during their acceptance speeches.

As far as our choices for performances on the show, they are selected by mutual decision by the production company and the academy television committee after much agonizing discussion. But even with 3 1/2 hours to fill, we can't put it all on the air and each year have regrets that we can't reach deeper into categories that deserve airtime. Although Hilburn chose to single out Beck and Steve Earle, a glance through the 104 Grammy categories would reveal numerous others who, purely because of time restraints, weren't represented.

Yes, Bob, just as the recording industry is in business to sell records, we have a responsibility to our viewers to represent their tastes and their favorites. But the Grammys have never shied away from looking for the pockets we feel should be on the show, whether it be celebrating career achievements of artists such as Curtis Mayfield, blues greats B.B. King and others, or introducing the new, such as Ricky Martin and, this year, Norah, Vanessa Carlton, Ashanti and John Mayer.

This year's show did all of the above, and did it with taste, style and emotion. That it did has been borne out by the nearly universal good reviews the show has received nationally, the highest ratings in 10 years and the personal response we've received from the participants in this year's show.

And if, as it seems, he missed the message for three hours of the show, then he certainly misinterpreted academy President Neil Portnow's remarks as well. In a period when the industry has taken such hits in so many areas, to have such good music to celebrate on this show is a signal that music is alive and that all of us who work within, as well as millions of fans, can take heart for the future.

If, as Hilburn states, the Grammys had only about 30 minutes of "alive music" last Sunday night, then his column had much less content about the show and its purpose than that. Too bad it had such prominent placement.

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