Year in and year out, the Grammys get it wrong almost every single time. Every winter, artists akin to the likes of Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars go home with the biggest awards of the night, which include the record of the year and the album of the year.
As these artists, who received awards for their non-offensive and cookie-cutter work, waltz to the stage to give their generic acceptance speeches, the voices of several artists who are pushing artistic boundaries sit and watch as the annihilators of creativity win the award for being the “best.”
The Grammys have always misled their audience as to who truly has the “best” song or album of the year. In 1967, The Beatle’s “Revolver”, an album which has been deemed a musical hallmark of the decade, lost album of the year to Frank Sinatra’s contrived and generic “A Man and His Music.” Giving Sinatra the award had nothing to do with the quality of his music. Instead, the Academy gifted this award to him because of his iconic surname and the mark he had made on the industry.
In 1998, Radiohead’s “OK Computer”, an album which has been titled a staple in alternative music’s identity in the turn of the 21st century, lost to Bob Dylan’s good but also forgetful “Time Out of Mind.”
This past year, Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.”, an album which accumulated an average rating of 96 on Metacritic, sold the most out of any album this year, and made grand statements on the political climate of 2017, lost to Bruno Mar’s “24k Magic.”
Bruno Mars at the 2018 Grammy Awards
Photo by Getty Images
A common trend throughout these picks of “album of the year” by the academy are the names of the winners and how “safe” they are. In 1967, Frank Sinatra, an in-house name that catered to a wider audience, was a safer pick than The Beatles: a band that was the poster child for the controversial hippie movement of the 60s. Furthermore, by the late 90s, Dylan was seen as a pioneer in modern music, which is why, almost certainly, he won the award for best album of the year: again his name sold him. And this year, in the 60th annual Grammy ceremony, Bruno Mar’s “24k Magic” (which was only thirty minutes long, making it more of an EP, and less of a full-length album) took the award due to its inability to polarize the audience, which Kendrick Lamar’s record did with its anti-Trump sentiments.
These injustices perpetrated by the academy are more severe than they appear on the surface. As musicians and singers become engrossed in the spotlight, the thought of winning a Grammy lingers in their mind. A part of being a celebrity, and the dream of being the “best” in a respective field, is winning the accolades which people will recognize you for as you go down in history.
The Grammys do not incentivize the creation of music that pushes artistic boundaries or asserts a statement that could potentially conflict with the audience’s opinion. This is unfortunate because many artists will lower the standard of their creative output, and play it safe for the accolades and recognition of being the best.
The severity of this issue for our culture is immeasurable, and artistic exploration is at stake. The advancement of ideas and people’s intellectuality have oftentimes been spawned from the movement of art and literature. Rewarding artists for being innocuous as opposed to being creative thwarts society’s ability to explore thought-provoking ideas.
Do not take the Grammy award ceremony literally, because it is meant to cater to the widest range of people possible. Do not see a Grammy as a measuring stick of someone’s creative ability, and who truly has the best album or song of the year. When watching the Grammy’s, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that the winners are calculated for the ceremony to get the highest ratings, and this fact destroys the incentive for creators to create and expand.