Is the Grammy Award for Best Show Album like a Student Election?

I was thrilled that Once won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album on Sunday night.  But it got me thinking . . . is it just a coincidence that the Tony Award winner for Best Musical also won Best Musical Theater Album?

Is this Grammy just like a Student Election?  Does the popular kid always win???

I put some crackerjack interns on the subject this AM to check the Grammy Award history books to see what we could find out.

Here’s what we discovered:

  • 7 of the last 10 Best Musical Tony Awards have won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.  That’s 70%!

Amazing, isn’t it?  Or maybe not?  Maybe there should be that kind of obvious connection between the two awards. Or maybe, the Grammy committee responds to marketing just like a consumer does.

Consider this . . . the three Best Musical Tony Award winners that didn’t win the Grammy were Avenue Q (which lost to the more marketed and more “popular” Wicked), Memphis (which lost to American Idiot, composed by super punk group with a zillion fans, Green Day), and Billy Elliot (which lost to West Side Story).

We dug a bit deeper and looked at Grammy Award Winners compared to the Winners of the Best Score . . . and, well, I’ll let the stats speak for themselves:

  • Only 3 of the last 10 (30%) Best Score Tony Awards have won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

So what’s happening here?

I tried to find a definition of exactly what the Grammys were looking for, but I couldn’t.  However, given that the award is given to both the Producer of the Album and the Composer/Lyricists it seems to be about what is written and how that material is presented.

So why are the Best Musical Tony Winners running away with trophies and the Best Score folks aren’t?

Well, honestly, I think it’s the same reason why Jimmy O’Connor beat me for VP my Senior Year of High School.  He was just cooler than I was.

Bonus Takeaway Action Item:  Want a Grammy Award?  Write a show that wins a Tony for Best Musical.


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  • Howard says:

    You may have missed an important point. Revivals are eligible for Grammys but not Best Musical/Score Tonys. And I believe that recobbled scores like NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT are not eligible for Best Score though they are eligible for Best Musical. It might be useful to have your interns see if any revivals or recobbled scores have “stolen” Grammys from Best Musical/Score winners.

    (Personally, I think the FOLLIES revival album wuz robbed by the Grammys.)

  • Sue says:

    Another option is just to ignore the Grammy awards in this category. The real question is how many more cast albums sold because a Grammy was awarded. Not many, I bet.

  • Ken, I do want a Grammy, so that is a great idea! I’ll just write a Tony winning show.

  • Catherine says:

    Marketing indeed has much to do with it.
    In the case of ONCE, the music was literally composed and felt from the stage… Raw and real !
    This is y it won a Grammy too.
    It’s not just another musical.
    As a playwright i’m telling you it was
    a darn real and absorbing story. Fresh and innocent
    and deserved all the awards. Actors are real sweet too .it’s easier to write a musical but to qrite a wonderful story with origional music, there is the formula ! But very good marketing did help.
    Hoping more stories are told that way. And it’s the old story Boy meets girl and Boy gets Girl .

    • Paul Mendenhall says:

      Uh…what? You think “Once” has a score that is composed every night onstage? And what on earth does this sentence mean? “it’s easier to write a musical but to qrite a wonderful story with origional music, there is the formula!” A musical IS a story with an original score. And what on earth does the actors being “sweet” have to do with the recording? “Hoping more stories are told that way.” Again: that’s what a musical IS. “And it’s the old story Boy meets girl and Boy gets Girl.” Yeah, that’s wildly inventive. I guess I should lay off since you seem to have been drunk when you wrote this.

  • Mark says:

    As a voting member of NARAS (which awards the GRAMMYS each year), I can say I actually didn’t vote for ONCE so I wasn’t swayed by the Tony! More importantly, a bit of trivia: The very first Grammy ever awarded in 1958 went to Meredith Willson for THE MUSIC MAN. So Broadway and the Grammys have a long-time history together.

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    The answer is simple: awards are always unfair, and completely meaningless, except as marketing devices.

  • Carol101 says:

    Ken – Thanks for putting words to the doubt I was feeling. I love Once but I did wonder if it won because voters didn’t listen to the other albums. Once (movie version) had an Oscar-winning song and was a known item.

    I often suspect that awards are about what is best known or had the best campaign for them. I thank Mark who posted earlier who said he is a voter and didn’t vote for Once, so I’m assuming at least one voter heard the albums.

    I wish that all the award givers for shows and movies would campaign for real judging based on actually listening to songs or watching movies or seeing shows. Maybe they do. It does make one wonder. Congrats to all the nominees and winner anyway.

  • Catherine says:

    Paul – I don’t drink but do write too quickly.
    I meant the songs come off like they are written right from the stage. I know the actors and they ate sweet.
    And in playwriting 101 Yale u r taught basic themes,
    one of which is that boy meets girl theme.
    And last but not least of course musicals are stories too ; but few are directed as fresh as Once is.
    plus it manages to invigorate younger audiences.
    Try not to sound beligerent Paul, we are all around this campfire sharing our stories so we might connect to one another.

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