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Americans are Spending Less and Saving More, Except at the Grammys

February 2, 2010

Data released yesterday show that Americans are spending less and saving more. Rates of household savings are expected to reach 20-year highs in 2010, and consumption rates (percentage of disposable income spent) that have risen since the 1980s will hold flat or decline.

That’s the good news for those concerned about the wisdom and long-term sustainability of an economy based on heedless consumption. The bad news is that Sunday night’s 2010 Grammy Awards may have blown those predictions right out of the water.

It seems we’re all going to have to tighten our belts after Grammy’s lavish, gauche production. At best, the pseudo-meaningful sculptures (Lady Gaga), stormtrooper costumes (Beyonce), twirling lady fountains (Pink), dancing robots (Black Eyed Peas), and grand mal strobe lights (all of the above) were ill suited for a time in which most folks have less money to spend on indulgences. At worst, the overblown performances were a grossly insensitive affront to our hopefully readjusted priorities—the money required for each of those production elements could have provided food and clothes for lots of people in need.

Either way, the visual distractions were of course designed to obscure the mediocrity, and in some cases utter dreadfulness, of the music itself. In other words, Jamie Foxx should stick to acting instead of lip-syncing—badly—about blaming things on alcohol.

But I digress. Of course I’m being facetious when I say that the Grammys have plunged us further into debt. We’re not really going to have to pitch in to pay for their irresponsible spending, though we still may have to bail out Nicolas Cage, f’real.

However, we’re living in a time when a lot of people are choosing to save their pennies. We’re buying cheaper booze (though small-batch bourbon remains, as ever, worth it), and, as a recent, rather nonsensical article has it, even Burger King is apparently too expensive for a lot of folks. [I would posit in response to the article that the real reason BK’s sales are down is because their food, especially their $1 menu, sucks. But that makes for a less interesting story, I guess].

So why wouldn’t the Grammys follow the lead of the Golden Globes and go for a more subdued program that felt more in tune with the spirit of the times? Not that I expect the Grammys to be a model of refinement, but why not make the whole show consistent with the evening’s more low-key, more rewarding performances? I’m thinking specifically of Taylor Swift’s workmanlike duet with Stevie Nicks and, especially, Maxwell’s sublime outing with soul goddess Roberta Flack. After the dog and pony shows put on by others (starring Lady Gaga as the dog, naturally), it was nice to see a few people keep it simple, sing at least decently well, and seem to give a damn about the actual music.

I know I’m not the target audience of the Grammys—this may be the first music awards show I’ve watched since Krist Novoselic beaned himself with his bass at the MTV awards.

But I have to think I’m not the only one who thought to himself, more than once, “How much money are they spending on this crap, and how many houses could that money rebuild in Haiti?”

Final question: did any of y’all try to forget those heavy thoughts by drinking a bottle of cheap tequila and going to the Richmond Road Burger King? Then did you sucker-punch the fry cook when your burger tasted worse than the sweaty bathwater Pink sprayed all over the Grammy audience?

Yeah, me neither.

One Comment
  1. February 3, 2010 10:20 am

    The over-the-topness was funded in some part by ticket sales. I had a couple of clients nominated and I considered going for 1/2 a second but $1K per ticket was too rich for my blood. Not sure if there were different price tiers but, considering that the venue holds around 20,000 people for concerts, that’s about $20 million in ticket sales alone, not to mention the broadcast rights, which likely generate significantly more.

    Guess the Recording Academy is kind of like Goldman Sachs – they each bring in a boatload of money and have to spend it somehow, but the lavish awards ceremony of the former and obscenely high bonuses paid by the latter are very visible examples that some things make too damn much scratch. Personally, I’d rather see the Grammy Foundation use a few less stormtroopers and put a little more back into the arts education programs that they are so found of talking about.

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