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The Grammys Aren't Totally Worthless -- Really

Tickers in this article: CBS

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Grandmas. The Grimmys. The Grammysaurus.

All are terms you might hear to describe the 56th Grammy Awards, which will be handed out this Sunday, Jan. 26. And yes, they are named for a gramophone.

The awards ceremony is a perennial punching bag for all people who care about music -- including TheStreet's own Jason Notte. On Friday, Notte penned a piece called "A Music Fan Should Never Watch the Grammys."

Notte calls the Grammys "notoriously anachronistic" and "just about as relevant as the lurching fossil of a commercial recording industry that this broadcast is trying to prop up." People who watch it "hate music and love watching it die." Ouch.

I can't say I disagree with him altogether. The ceremony is chock-full of yesterday's stars, still ready for their close-ups years after their big days are behind them.

Plus, the broadcast is rife with gratuitous back-patting and self-congratulating done by a music industry that has literally shrunk in half over the last decade in terms of sales. (Business Insider once did a fantastic series of charts on the music industry's decline.)

In truth, when I picture the Grammy ceremony, I see a Day-of-the-Dead style spectacle full of cavorting 70-year-olds with nice taut skin and big white teeth kicking their replaced knees all over the stage. I also picture a few 30-something side players and maybe two teenaged performers shuffling in the shadows of the stage in sad attempt to draw in younger viewers.

Even the younger acts are playing into the nostalgia. Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, which may well win for the best song of the year, not only straight-up jacks Marvin Gaye's Got to Give It UpIt's been legally judged to be a rip-off. And Rolling Stone dubbed it "The Worst Song of This or Any Other Year." More importantly, Got to Give It Up was recorded in 1976. That's 37 years ago. That's what passes for original with the people who hand out Grammys.

Oh, and the Grammys still segregate Latinos. There is a separate (and equal! They swear!) ceremony for Latin Grammys. Let's not even get into it.

Then there's the anniversary concert to commemorate the Beatles' arrival in America 50 years ago. That show, "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles," will be filmed live on Monday, Jan. 27, and be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. It's about as scripted a take on a youthquake as it is possible to construct. The tribute is rumored to include performances by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr -- the surviving ex-Beatles -- as well as the Eurythmics, Maroon 5, Keith Urban, John Mayer, Alicia Keys and John Legend.

USA Today notes, disturbingly, that the last three on that list all have won more Grammys than the Beatles ever did. (TheStreet's Carlton Wilkinson will be keeping an eye on the show in a series of upcoming articles.)

The "star-studded tribute" is also misguided. As if the Beatles couldn't draw viewers unassisted.

It's all a strange spectacle.

But even though the Grammys showcase more sagging rockers and more tired music than is seemly, and even if they reward the mediocre, they still aren't totally worthless.

How else would we know what CDs to buy for our parents?

Aw, hey now, I'm joking -- at least a little.

The real virtue of the Grammys, in my mind, is that they get us talking about music -- and better yet, listening to it. Alongside the weird performances and bad award choices and the reek of desperate music executives trying to gin up the numbers, there is the music.

We also get to hear irate music fans complaining about the real best records of the year. So let's pay some attention to the new releases of 2013, and hear some new songs from other years too.

Maybe you don't like the Grammy winners. Maybe you don't like who is nominated. But music isn't, nor will it ever be, about winners or contests or ratings. In the words of Sister Sledge (or, really, Nile Rodgers, who will be performing at the Grammys), it's about getting lost in music. It's about listening to Kraftwerk's Computer World again. And because of the Grammys, maybe we'll find some new music to get lost in. That's the point.