By Austin Prim
The Grammys took place just a little more than a month ago. All in all, the 2018 Grammys wasn’t a bad show. The nominations, for the most part, were deserved. There weren’t too many snubs. The majority of the winners selected were correct. But this year’s was an outlier. This isn’t the trend or the norm. No, we (black artists) don’t get shunned or left out every year. We get overlooked though. Our artists and our music isn’t given the same recognition that others’ does. There have been too many artists that have earned, and deserved certain awards at the Grammys but lost out to some random obscure artist, or were bested by an artist with the biggest song that year. Although I understand the prestige that a Grammy once held, at this point it seems less of an award for being the best, and more of a popularity contest. Though the Grammys’ adoration and recognition of a small group is bad, the inconsistency of the Grammy choices might be the worst part.
One year, you have this innovative and universally loved album by Beyoncé. Lemonade is easily her best album to date, and honestly one of the best albums to be released in the last few years. The rollout for it was amazing! The concept of it was inspiring…for most. It was as critically acclaimed as it was popular. Most people thought Beyoncé was winning the year before for her Self-Titled album, but she lost…to, the arguably random & obscure artist, Beck. It was obvious that Lemonade had to win Album of the Year. However, Lemonade lost to 25, Adele’s album. Adele is great. Her second album 21 was great. But 25, the album was good at best. There was nothing spectacular about the album. Nothing new. Nothing breathtaking. Nothing about that album was better than Lemonade, and Adele knew it. This isn’t a knock against Adele. This is against the Grammys for being apparent with their bias. Compare the critic ratings for both albums. Lemonade was better reviewed than 25 by almost all publications. Metacritic gave Adele’s third album a 75/100, and Beyoncé’s 6th effort 92/100. Lemonade got a perfect 5/5 stars from The Independent in contrast to 25’s 3/5 stars. Rolling Stone gave both perfect scores, while Spin rated Adele 6/10 and Beyoncé 9/10. Numbers don’t lie but apparently, the Grammys do.
Ok, maybe the Grammys don’t lie. But they are, if nothing else, fickle in their choice for winners. One year, they’ll pick that one “hidden gem” song/album that only pockets of people really know. The next, they’ll choose the biggest song or artist to give those awards to over arguably more deserving ones. They pick and choose who they want to win without standard criteria for what deserves the award it seems. For argument’s sake, let’s take this year’s awards. Bruno Mars won Song of the Year for “That’s What I Like” over Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ”. No. Bruno had a MONSTER year! There’s no denying that. And even though I believe this year should’ve been the year a Hip-Hop artist won Album of the Year, it’s extremely hard to argue against 24k Magic not winning. But awarding Song of the Year, an award for writing, to “That’s What I Like” wasn’t right. Track two off Hov’s most recent musical output is easily a more well written and thought provoking song than Bruno’s. I love both songs, but when it comes down to the lyrics, which is what this award is for, there’s no comparison. This is yet another example of the Grammys playing favorites. Who is it easier to give an award to: A tiny, adorable looking Hawaiian guy singing about love or a 6 foot tall black guy rapping about creating generational wealth for his community? I’m not by any means alluding to the Grammys being racist. I’m simply bringing awareness to its voting contradictions. It’s like it’s not about rewarding the content or the art any more.
As much as I’m disappointed in the Grammys, I think it’s hard for me to confidently say that they don’t matter. If the Grammys didn’t matter, I don’t think we’d care so much that they don’t recognize our music and our artists the way we believe they should. Winning a Grammy is still an amazing accomplishment. It’s validation…at least it was, or should be. It was acknowledgement that your work and art is loved. Instead, it’s leaning more so to the notion that some people love you. Creatives are concerned about what’s created. The art is being overshadowed by the artist apparently. There are plenty of people who still want Grammys. There’s no problem with that. Criteria for winning should be required though. Some sort of standard should be set so that there are no more contradictions. Although the Grammys need paradigm shift back into consistency, they still matter…for now.