Michael Jackson's Legacy Leads to an Awkward American Music Awards Ceremony

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With the American Music Awards scheduled to air on Sunday, I can't help but obsess about what Taylor Swift must be thinking. 
Earlier in the year, she received the first MTV Video Music Award given to a country singer--only to be infamously stage-jacked by Kanye West.  Earlier in the month she scored four big Country Music Awards--with the Kanye incident getting some serious lampoon attention as well.  This weekend she's walking into the American Music Awards with six nominations based on the success of her second album Fearless, which was released a year ago. But she has to wonder if she's going to get spotlight-jacked again because of her very, er, stiff competition in some categories.  And I'm not talking about Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon or Eminem, although they also have had incredible years and appear against Taylor Swift on the Artist of the Year shortlist.
 
I'm talking about the oddity of competing for a 2009 American Music Award for Artist of the Year against a very deceased pop king Michael Jackson.  Michael is up for five awards, including nominations for Artist of the Year and for Favorite Album (in both the Pop/Rock and the Soul/R&B categories) for Number Ones, a best-of compilation released in 2003.  Jackson's last original album release was Invincible, in 2001.
 
But the American Music Award nominees are selected on a very strange definition of "year." The nominees are based on a combination of the year's music sales data and radio Nielsen ratings, and then fan votes select the winner.  Jackson's death in June disproportionately spiked all of those metrics, though no one could say that 2009 was a great year for him in any way other than sales.
 
It's odd, and many people say his nominations are unfair and point out the sales-heavy criteria of the AMAs.  Not that the star doesn't deserve accolades for his contributions and memorials to his legacy. But the AMA show promises to offer memorial and celebration, with Janet Jackson slated to perform an eight-minute medley to open the show, and myriad other tributes are appropriate and would be welcome.  But by definition a legend would be very likely to sweep sales in the year of his or her death, so the inclusion of deceased artists in the competition has been a topic of debate.  
 
Maura at Idolator titled her AMA post Michael Jackson Should Really Just be Nominated For Every American Music Award at this Point, writing, "In the latest sign that “pop music” is breathing its last gasp in 2009."
 
But Deborah Ffrench commented on Heckler Spray's run-down on why old work should be ineligible if it becomes popular for because of unusual events. Deborah wrote:
Of course Michael should be nominated. He was and will remain one of the greatest entertainers that ever walked the earth. He also – and I say this for the benefit of some of the detractors above, has an album and a single out. And yes, I am aware that these nominations are as much about acknowledging the growing worldwide calls for Michael’s name to be decisively vindicated as they are about recognizing the peerlessness of his musical legacy.
Some fans want to look past the Award issues and just be happy for the chance to give Jackson the public welcome he was waiting for after a long lull in appearances.  As Mona Darling wrote about the comeback Jackson hoped to make with the This Is It tour, "Michael will be remembered because of his music now, its a different kind of a come back now, and will remain forever." 

I don't think there is enough juice in the show to make it appealing to watch for me, though I'll definitely look for clips on Monday.  And I really don't have to worry about Taylor Swift.  After her experiences this year she probably knows to expect anything...either the awkwardness of losing, the awkwardness of beating Jackson, or the awkwardness of any siting of Kanye West.

Are you into it, or do you think that Jackson shouldn't still be in the running for American Music Awards?

Deb Rox blogs at Deb on the Rocks and Tweets It, Just Tweets It at @debontherocks.

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