Oh, the Grammy Awards. Let’s get straight to the point about the Grammy Awards; it’s as much about celebrating the art as much as it is a popularity contest that serves to reward specific tastes.
The Grammy Awards are handed out to artists that fulfill very specific mainstream requirements: at best it’s 50% art and 50% popularity. The Grammys aren’t about the best music, it’s an award show on network television rewarding the best in popular music according to The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Beyonce vs. Beck: WHO CARES IT DOESN’T MATTER
During this year’s show, social media was up in arms that the beloved popular Beyonce lost to the lesser-known, yet still popular Beck for the Album of the Year Grammy (I’d wager that 95% of Beyonce backers haven’t listened to Beck’s album, but I digress). I’m not here to argue the merit of Beck’s album over Beyonce’s, or vice versa, I’m here to say that we shouldn’t give the Grammy Awards the authority as the definitive, objective arbiter of the best music because the Grammys are far from fair. It’s not objective and your tastes in music are not objective, either. That’s not an insult, it’s a compliment.
If you’re a independent music artist or an artist of color, you know that the chances of your album being heard, much less nominated, or winning is already slim. Let’s look at this year’s “Record of the Year” nominees vying for the title — did you notice that every nominee was a well-known name in 2014?
3. Ed Sheeran
4. Pharrell Williams
5. Sam Smith
No matter how great and innovative your album may be, the Grammys algorithm (a bunch of music executives) factor popularity into their winning formula. Good luck getting nominated for “Album of the Year” if you’ve sold less than 200K albums (Beck’s sold 301,000).
To further the point about The Grammys’ subjectivity, let’s look at Pitchfork Media and Meta Critic’s top five albums of 2014. Pitchfork and Meta Critic are two of the largest, reputable independent music review sites on the net and their top five albums are completely different, none of those artists were on the Grammys’ list of nominees.
Take a look:
Pitchfork Media’s 5 Best Albums of 2014:
1. Run the Jewels (Run the Jewels 2)
2. FKA twigs (LP1)
3. The War on Drugs (Lost in the Dream)
4. Aphex Twin (Syro)
5. Grouper (Ruins)
Meta Critic’s 5 Best Albums of 2014:
1. The War on Drugs (Lost in the Dream)
2. St. Vincent (St. Vincent)
3. Run the Jewels (Run the Jewels 2)
4. FKA twigs (LP1)
5. Aphex Twin (Syro)
It’s interesting to see the two “best of 2014” lists from Pitchfork and Meta Critic share four of the top five albums and yet, none of these albums were nominees for “Album of the Year” at the Grammy Awards. How can two reputable music sites agree on 4/5 of the best albums, and none of those four make it onto the Grammys’ list?
The problem? Nobody knows these artists, they’re not popular enough period. You think the Bey-Hive is angry now? Could you imagine if St. Vincent or Aphex Twin won? Ok, let’s say Pitchfork and Meta Critic tend to be more indie-heavy, so let’s then take a look at the Grammys’ history for Rap Album of the Year. A Facebook post from Complex Magazine prior to the award show highlighted just how out of touch the Grammys are when it comes to rap:
Macklemore has more Grammys than Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., DMX, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Big Pun, Young Jeezy, Ja Rule and Kendrick Lamar COMBINED.
You don’t have to listen to rap to know that it’s absurd that Macklemore has more Grammys than 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Ice Cube, Nas, Snoop Dog, KRS-One, Run DMC, Rakim and Public Enemy combined.
You could totally be out of touch with hip-hop and still know most of those names on the list are rap luminaries and legends. If this doesn’t tell you that the Grammys are subjective (and er… racist), then I don’t know what will.
I haven’t looked at the Grammys as anymore than a televised concert for more than 20 years now. Despite all their categories, I realized that there was no way that The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are not the omnipotent judge of all music. As far as music as an art, the Grammy Awards are meaningless.
The sooner we all realize that, the less angry you’ll be that Beyonce lost to Beck in a contest that doesn’t really matter.