“Same old, same old,” I told myself as I sighed and turned off the TV after 2014’s installment of the perennially disappointing Grammys. And in attempts to keep this column on one topic, I’m going start off by listing all my irrelevant thoughts on all the memorable moments of “music’s biggest night.”
— I’m not at all a fan of Lorde, but she slayed live, and those criticizing her appearance and demeanor during the Grammys are being unnecessarily mean-spirited.
— The halved Beatles reunion was stellar, and Paul and Ringo’s post-performance bow should be remembered for decades.
— Snub of the night: Kendrick.
— Comeback of the night: L.L. Cool J. Who’d have thought he’d land a Grammy hosting gig after the most inane, ignorant collaboration of 2013 between Brad Paisley and himself on “Accidental Racist?”
— While a tad political for my taste, the “Same Love” marriage sequence was, at the very least, heartwarming.
— I was really hoping for Juicy J to abandon his verse when he performed “Dark Horse” with Katy Perry and instead unleash some vintage “Three 6 Mafia” material, but sadly, my dream did not come true.
As you can see, I was quite pleased with many Grammy moments. So why am I being such a Debbie Downer about the night as a whole? Because while the performances were memorable, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the organization that decides who wins each award) has, once again, spat in the face of the concept of musical diversity.
Now, to be fair, the music industry is colossal in size and breadth, spanning hundreds of genres and subgenres. Obviously, not everyone is going to walk away with a golden gramophone.
There is a looming problem, however, when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis win four of them and titans of hip-hop Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar walk away empty-handed.
I realize the national opinion is opposite. In countless polls, America picked the more popular music — like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — over the relatively lesser-known. And over the years, nominations and awards have, for the most part, gone to the more popular artists.
Sure, sometimes the more popular artist deserves success, but when electronic duo Disclosure puts out a game-changing album only to be swept under the rug because Daft Punk is more of a household name, something needs to change.
This isn’t at all a commonality between awards shows. For example, if the Oscars followed suit and exclusively awarded the highest-grossing and most well-known movies, “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Iron Man 3” would bring out the broom and sweep this year’s Academy Awards.
Point being, this problem seems to be exclusive to music.
The core of the problem is the Grammys’ unquenchable thirst for good ratings. For example, it’s a safe assumption that a majority of viewers prefer more popular, well- known artists. Consequently, many of the awards will pander toward this preference, meaning that more pop artists and well-known musicians will win, despite not necessarily having the strongest music.
Eighty-two Grammys were awarded this year, with categories ranging from “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” to “Best Tropical Latin Album.” But are most of these awards televised or even talked about? No, of course not because viewers won’t tune in to see the Pacific Mambo Orchestra accept its award.
Despite never mentioning entire categories of awards, they’ll televise the presentation of six different pop-based awards alone because that’s how they maximize profit.
Economically, it makes sense. But for an event that’s supposed to celebrate and encapsulate all types of music, their approach is heinous.
Macklemore raps about thrift shops and political hot topics, and this week he’ll lay his head down next to four gold trophies. Meanwhile, the less commercially popular, more artistically proficient artists will fill their heads with “what-ifs” — as in, “What if the Grammys placed a higher emphasis on artistry, rather than merely selling records and bumping ratings?”
The award aspect of the Grammys is a debacle, a victory lap for the reigning popular artists, and a slap in the face to those sacrificing record sales in the name of art.
For now, all the forgotten artists will have to cling to the wise words of indie artist and Grammy “infiltrate” Justin Vernon, frontman of Bon Iver: “The grammies (sic) aren’t a measure of much that is calculable or quantifiable by our own contexts for music. Why you create is most important.”
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