The Dixie Chicks' sweep of the top awards at Sunday night's Grammy Awards celebration has generated a great discussion here on About Top 40 / Pop. I would like to add a few more observations that have come to my mind since the event.
I can certainly understand the feelings of many pop fans who think they've been a bit cheated in having the music industry give its top awards to music with such little radio airplay. However, I think the backlash against radio is part of the point of the awards. Those who actually make the records, artists, producers, and engineers, are the people who vote for Grammy Awards. Unlike many other awards in performing arts, journalists, music industry executives, promotional personnel, radio personnel, etc. are excluded from voting. This was an award granted by the Dixie Chicks' peers celebrating the group standing up to, in part, the increasingly corporate world of radio.
Radio playlists are increasingly dominated by the whims of corporate executives with less and less impact from individual station program directors. This means, particularly in the case of country radio, political points of view of corporate executives can have a huge impact. Just as it may not make sense to fans that music they've heard very little of should win major awards, it also makes little sense that radio stations should refuse to play music from an album that debuts at #1 on the chart from sales to music fans and is the 6th best selling album of the year. For the record, country radio didn't like the last country album that won the Grammy for Album of the Year either. It was the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Some of you raised questions of how the Grammys could give the Country Album of the Year award to the Dixie Chicks when the Country Music Association didn't even nominate the album. The simple answer is the impact of voting corporate personnel in the Country Music Associaton vs. the dominace of artists and producers in selecting the Grammys. Also, at the Grammys, voting members of the Recording Academy may vote in multiple genres. For more on Grammy selection, check out the guide to How Grammy Award Winners are Selected.
I suspect that many of the artists selecting their peers the Dixie Chicks voted for them to honor the group's standing up to and overcoming a nightmare they hope they never have to experience themselves. It's very very rare that one comment generates the vehemence of the backlash the Dixie Chicks experienced. Loss in record sales and concert ticket sales is one thing, ongoing death threats and condemnation from the President of the United States is quite another. Arguably, Kanye West's comment about George W. Bush hating black people was significantly more pointed than what Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks had to say, but the backlash was much milder, in part because the corporate powers in Kanye's musical community did not turn on him with attempts to manipulate mass opinions of fans in the way the country music corporate powers turned on the Dixie Chicks.
I can make arguments for other nominees having the artistic edge over the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way, although it is a very good album, but I can understand and honor the choice made by the artists in the recording industry. I do hope this victory sends a message that corporate manipulation does not rule the choices of an event like the Grammy Awards and many of us prefer an open sea of ideas and opinions expressed through our popular music.