SOminn Sound - Are The Grammys Relevant Anymore?

By: 

Sarah Osterbauer

Every year as I dutifully watch the Grammys, I am always shocked at one point or another with one or more of the awards’ recipients. Whether it was the year no-namer Esperanza Spalding took home Best New Artist, or the year Beck won over Beyoncé for best album, or this year when Adele cleaned up over Beyoncé, each year the Academy seems to make questionable choices. In some categories, even the nominees themselves seem puzzling (“I Took a Pill In Ibiza” nominated for Record of the Year?).

For those of you who are not aware, the Grammys are voted on by members of the Recording Academy. It is made up of industry professionals in the field (songwriters, singers, producers, musicians, record executives, etc.) musical equivalent to the voters of the Oscars. They vote first for nominees and then for the final winners. According to the Grammy website, voters are encouraged to only vote in their area of expertise and are allowed to vote for up to 15 categories plus the general fields like Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.

When I first started watching, the award show was pretty boring, lots of awards, less performances. As the show started to get smarter, they increased the performances and cut back on the actual award giving for the telecast, The bulk of awards instead moved to a ceremony the happens prior to the televised one. They upped the ante on performances by combining older artists with newer ones, making for once in a lifetime viewing. This change is all fine and good, in the name of quality entertainment. However, the performances tend to overshadow the recognition of the award recipients when their thank-you speech is cut short so Justin Bieber can perform alongside Kenny Rogers, or whatever the case may be.

While adding “Grammy winner” can look great on anyone’s resume, it does beg the question how much it actually makes a difference for already successful performers. As much as I was upset at Beyoncé’s loss this year, what would a Grammy win do for her? She already has reached a height of success that few will ever see. She has the capital and the resources to do whatever she likes and the will to do it. Virtually everything she produces turns to gold and she has a fierce and devoted following. Even for Adele, the one who did win, what will her four trophies do for her? Adele has seen massive success, sold out tours, has the resources and star power to work with whomever she pleases. People adore her and they won’t stop adoring her anytime soon.

A Grammy is supposed to be the highest honor than a recording artist can achieve. But when the voters don’t seem to hold up their end of the bargain - when that award is given to an artist that the public feels is undeserving – it devalues and diminishes the Grammys. It’s no wonder, then, that some artists shun such ceremonies, and don’t feel the need or desire to win. Like most awards, there’s the feeling of a popularity contest going or some kind of backroom dealings where people shake hands and agree to vote this way or that way for some other gain. This year it felt obvious that the Academy was lacking a backbone, afraid to crown a winner making music that was as empowering as it may have been divisive. Some critics made it into a race issue, which also may be true, but regardless the fact remains, the Recording Academy likes to keep its winners non-controversial.

The only people who can really see a monetary or career benefit from winning a Grammy are the people we don’t see on the telecast. It’s the up and coming producers, songwriters, mixers, editors and musicians who may gain traction from winning such an award.

What then makes the Grammys relevant? Why should they endure as the gold standard for music quality? Do we need a new system to judge our music professionals? And if not, what changes can the Academy make to ensure that the most deserving person wins? As humans, we love contests and awards. We love the feeling of a win. We inherently need to know who is “the best” at everything, which why so many of these awards exist. And while many other award shows have tried to dethrone the Grammys as the highest honor in music, no other organization has come close. Thus we continue to watch, year after year, crossing our fingers that our favorites take home trophies and that the performances make the DVR space worth it.

 

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Grammys - Adele went 4 for 4 at the Grammys this year to the dissatisfaction of many, including her. She made waves when she gave her speech, saying she although she and her team worked hard on 25, it was not the album that Lemonade was. She said the album was “empowering” specifically for her “black friends”. Many applauded her, disappointed in the result. Some cited this as part of the long standing issues the awards ceremony has with race. Regardless of the race issues that remain, the Grammys are no stranger to divisive wins. 

 

Sarah Osterbauer is a die-hard music lover. When she does her budget each month, food comes after concert tickets. Find her on twitter @SarahOwrites.