Grammys Post-Game: Why Lady Gaga Lost to Taylor Swift

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Dear Lady Gaga, I hope you’re well. I hope you realize that without you, that little song-and-dance trip through What Was Popular In America Two-and-a-Half Years Ago would’ve been unbearable. And that if any of us were sitting there through the bitter end, it’s because we thought that Grammy producers would’ve bribed you and Beyoncé into performing this collaboration or this one live. That would’ve made up for a host of increasingly terrible things to happen on-stage last night. Terrible things like Taylor Swift, that half-assed Michael Jackson tribute that conveniently cashed in on the green trend, the trying-too-hard hip-hop debacle of Drake and Eminem, Ke$ha looking like the She-Hulk standing next to Justin Bieber, the lack of any appearance by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, the many appearances of Taylor Swift, Dave Matthews, the Zac Efron Band Zach Brown Band, something about Haiti with Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige, and of course, still more Taylor Swift. Yes Gaga, last night was tantamount to chasing shots of Lemon Georgi with 40s of Old English. But your loss to Taylor Swift in the Album of the Year category? There’s a theory that proves it’s quite consistent with the cynical nature of the Grammys, which stopped actually rewarding quite-nice music sometime ago.

But before we dissect the mentality of the worst awards show ever, let’s recap. This:

LOST to this:

Sigh. And with all respect to Her Highness Stevie Nicks (condolences for having to play second fiddle to such a dire first!), but every time Swift came on-stage, the entire country fell into a coma. It took something as frightening as one of Kim Kardashian’s Quick Trim commercials to startle us out of sleep. Which may exactly be why the Grammys rewarded Taylor Swift over Our Lady of the Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-Roma-ma-ah! Ga-ga-ooh-la-la.

The Grammys are an exercise in cynical ratings-grabbing. The telecast is trying to grab two key demos: R&B fans and country music fans. Enter two sets of performers. The first: Swift, the Dave Matthews Band featuring that broad from Sugarland, that band that’s not the Zac Efron Band and other similarly interchangeable country-ish jambands. The others: Foul-mouthed rappers like Drake and Eminem whose performances were muted out, Maxwell, and Usher for starters. Such a desperate grab for viewership means that the telecast will shirk bringing more attention to performers who shirk the status quo. Which is the cornerstone of Gaga’s body of work.

There’s no way that the telecast, which aired on CBS, was going to hand an Album of the Year honor to a performer who has come out as such an unequivocal gay rights activist and tends to smash bottles of vodka against grand pianos over someone as Wonderbread as Taylor Swift. But the Grammys also love themselves the pre-telecast ceremony–the ghetto of untelevised awards. That’s where Gaga snapped up a trophy for “Poker Face” for Best Dance Recording. On the bright side, Gaga, who is in a very exclusive club of performers that made music profitable again, the other stand-out ineligible for Grammy consideration.

And at least unlike this leading lady of pop in 2009–or even Swift–Gaga finds herself in some amazing company for the 2010 Brit Awards, which at least holds the promise of not being ear-stabbingly terrible like its American counterpart.