Every year on around Thanksgiving for the last decade or more, I determine the winners of the Ehmke(e) Awards, my own personal (okay, imaginary) year-in-music review. (Long story behind the parenthetical e; don't feel like sharing it at the moment.) Unlike most best-album honors given out by more legitimate bestowers, mine focus on the listener as much as the producer of the sounds: for me, picking an "album of the year" has more to do with the year I listened to the record than the year it hit stores. (Favorite example: Gram Parsons was my very first Artist of the Year, about two decades after he bit the dust.) I also don't feel compelled to narrow selections down to a single winner. Hell, I just plain don't like awards, period. In a nutshell, the two features of entertainment writing I find most boring are:
1) the annual year-end wrap-up of top ten CDs/movies/whatever, and
2) the annual column where people guess who's going to win the Grammys/Oscars/Emmys/etc. (particularly when they post actual odds, like 20:7, which make no sense to me and only trigger my math anxiety).
But somehow I can't resist the urge to combine these two ultra-boring concepts, albeit on my own terms.
Most years, the Ehmke(e) Awards are a purely hypothetical affair (except in 1997, when my list happened to make its way into The Berkshire Eagle's annual year-end wrap-up for reasons I ... won't go into here, in keeping with tonight's theme of Teasing the Reader). But now that I got me this here blog, I can share the results with ... all five people who read it. The virtual envelopes, please:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Brian Wilson, Smile. Hell, it's the least I can do to acknowledge such a monumental musical achievement and cultural event. And I've said more than enough about the album itself already. I'm just happy to see that it's been making a dent "at retail," as they say, and in the CD players of people around the world, some of whom may not even be obsessive megafans.
SONG OF THE YEAR: Outcast, "Hey Ya." And didn't Missy Elliot have some super-catchy single like "Work It" out this past year, too? It's getting so hard to remember which year is which as I approach my dotage. Anyway, those two top my list, for reasons that should be perfectly obvious.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Caetano Veloso. Another no-brainer, given how much of the music he has written and/or performed that I've surrounded myself with of late, to say nothing of the many happy hours spent reading his memoir.
CONCERT OF THE YEAR: A tie...
João Gilberto (Nob Hill [I think], San Francisco, June)
Brian Wilson (Massey Hall, Toronto, October)
Wrote about the first of these here already, and one day I will actually get around to finishing the post I started and abandoned about the latter.
If I were a more ambitious sort, I'd look up past winners and list them here--except I don't think they're all written down anywhere. (Face it: honor is such an ephemeral quality sometimes.) I do recall that the 2003 concert of the year was a three-way tie between Robbie Fulks, Don Lennon (both at Mohawk Place here in Buffalo), and Super Furry Animals (at the Continental in Bflo--but how could I possibly have left Patti Smith's unbelievable 3-hour show at the Sphere out of that list??? Perhaps it was actually in 2002?). D Lennon got artist of the year, and album of the year was a threeway tie between The Postal Service's Give Up, Mr. Lennon's Downtown, and My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves. And I know that past album-of-the-year winners have included Mull Historical Society, The Twilight Singers, and Mark Eitzel. Oh, and Radiohead, but something tells me they don't need the extra sales bump which inevitably follows such a prestigious distinction.
(Y'know, anytime I write stuff like this, I can't help suspecting that I sound exactly like the protagonist of American Psycho, who spends his time between murders reviewing the history of the band Genesis, album by album. Is this not the worst fear of all bloggers?)
Any contests of your own to list here? Be my guest. Believe me, I'd way rather hear about the winner of the Bradley Q. Fakename honors than speculate about the Recording Association of America's next Best New Artist.