Tonight is the 57th Annual Grammy Awards show, or it may have already happened, depending on when you’re reading this. For years, the Grammys have crowned the upper echelon of pop music artists (emphasis on POP music). They are a mainstay in February and invite the biggest names in pop music to attend and draw millions of viewers at home to watch. While I have a disdain for award shows, I usually tune in to the Grammys, or at least tape it, because of the performances. This year, some of my favorite artists are playing, like Sia, Ed Sheeran, and Hozier. Some of the biggest names in music are coming together to perform, such as Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney; Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige; and Beyonce, Common, and John Legend.
All of this masks the problem at the core of the Grammys — it’s a farce, an absolutely useless parade of famous people patting each other on the back, much like any other award show. Does anybody really give a shit who wins what at the Grammys? Do the artists themselves even give a shit? Do the awards have any weight when they don’t acknowledge all avenues of music?
Above I mentioned how the Grammys are only concerned with pop music. They only acknowledge what is supremely popular instead of what it critically lauded. Sometimes those two don’t overlap. Amazing songs and albums can fly under the radar while the commercially successful crap gets the headlines (and the awards). Last year Daft Punk won Record and Album of the Year. Anybody still remember “Get Lucky”? Anybody listened to anything on Daft Punk’s album recently (it’s called Random Access Memories, by the way)?
Look at what is nominated for Record of the Year tonight: “Fancy”, “Chandelier”, “Stay With Me (Darkchild Remix)”, “Shake It Off”, and “All About That Bass”. Let’s face it — Taylor Swift or Meghan Trainor is going to win tonight. Rap doesn’t do well at the Grammys, but Iggy Azalea has a chance because she’s a white female. But are these really the best records from the past year (Record of the Year refers to the actual recording of the song while Song of the Year refers to the lyrics and songwriting of a song)? “Fancy”, “Shake It Off”, and “All About That Bass” are all annoying pop songs that, in a few years, won’t even be remembered as some of the best songs from those artists.
What about Song of the Year? Nominations are “All About That Bass”, “Chandelier”, “Shake It Off” (REALLY?!), “Stay With Me (Darkchild Remix)”, and “Take Me to Church”. “Take Me to Church” is Hozier’s only acknowledgement at the Grammys tonight. WTF? One of 2014’s best new artists, and one of the best albums from 2014 start to finish, only gets one nomination? It should most certainly win Song of the Year — “Take Me to Church” is a beautifully composed extended metaphor about relationships, love, and sexuality. It is wonderful. The only problem is that the lyrical masterpieces of “Shake it Off” or “All About That Bass” are going to win. I really hope this doesn’t happen, but the Grammys are known for “rewarding” the most popular music, not always the best (I could rant about how terrible the nominations themselves are, but I only have so much internet-ink).
The worst part about the Grammys are how they completely ignore people of color. Women get championed at the awards ceremony, and I’m glad the Grammys properly award them, but it’s time that ethnic minorities get some love as well. Basically, black people are only regulated to winning in the rap and the R&B categories. Before starting this, I read a news article from last year that included quotes from Kanye West on how he had won 21 Grammy Awards and not one against a white artist (I’m not sure if that is accurate but it’s a safe assumption). Last year, West was nominated for two awards — Best Rap Album, for Yeezus, and Best Rap Song, for “New Slaves”. Read what he had to say:
“They try to trivialize my words and try to make it seem like my importance as a musician is less important than what it is. I mean, we can even take a look at some recent nominations that came out. Now I’m 36-years-old and I have 21 Grammys. That’s the most Grammys of any 36-year-old. Out of all those 21 Grammys, I’ve never won a Grammy against a white artist.
“So, when the Grammy nominations come out and Yeezus is the Top 1 or 2 albums on every single list, but only gets two nominations from the Grammys. What are they trying to say? Do they think that I wouldn’t notice? Do they think that some way that I don’t have the power to completely diminish all of their credibility at this moment…People come to me and they congratulate me on those two nominations. Fuck those nominations.”
Very striking words, and very true, as well. Rap has long been ignored by the Grammys, except for what is considered “mainstream” rap — Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Eminem, Macklemore. Last year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were the big winners. Why? Because they’re white, mainstream, and create “pop” music (“Thrift Shop”, “Can’t Hold Us”). Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West were gypped last year.
To wrap up this rant, I just want to reiterate — the Grammy Awards are a complete farce. They only award pop music, white people, and what’s commercially successful. These awards mean nothing if the winners aren’t competing against a vast and diverse field.
I really hope I’m wrong about the Record and Song of the Year awards and good music wins. We’ll find out later.