Do The Grammys Really Matter?

It seems that every year there’s always someone dissatisfied with the official Grammy award winners. I personally have gotten heated over a Grammy going to the wrong person based on my own musical opinions and preferences. Conspiracy theories about the academy’s selection of winners have also risen to the public’s attention, causing an even bigger divide between music lovers. Suggestions of racist, sexist and even marketing-sales driven accusations have all been thrown at the Grammy-winner deciders. Despite these claims, I think it’s important for people to know who exactly the “academy” even is.

According to News One, the Recording Academy is a commonwealth of eclectic musicians who individually get to vote on two things: one, who gets nominated in each category and two, who wins those nominations. This group of people ranges in musical expertise - some are vocalists, others engineers, etc. News One also makes sure to point out how the process of becoming a part of this so-called prestigious Recording Academy is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is be an artist, fill out an application form, and pay $100 in annual dues. Now, this is important. Essentially, these are people who are giving money in order for their musical voices to be heard nation-wide. I think it’s particularly significant that Grammy watchers understand that not everyone can afford these dues, therefore the Recording Academy certainly isn’t a group of lower-class individuals.

Taking a look at the trends within the biggest categories (Best Album of the Year, Best Song of the Year, Record of the Year) there seems to be an existing theme in recent years; the safest bet is most likely to win. Now, this isn’t always true, but for the most part, it is. Let’s look at this year’s nominations for Album of the Year, for example:

  1. Awaken, My Love! - Childish Gambino
  2. 4:44 - JAY-Z
  3. DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar
  4. Melodrama - Lorde
  5. 24K Magic - Bruno Mars

All of these albums are conceptual in their own way. Childish Gambino’s album takes on a heavy vintage-soul influence, something he’s never done before in comparison to his previous projects. JAY-Z’s 4:44 is an extremely personal album that reflects his love life with Beyonce and offers an insight into the intimate, secret side of JAY-Z. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar offers intelligence in his lyrics and implements an emotionally raw concept paired with intense aggression and grit and even vulnerability during some points. Lorde’s vocals and the distinct production was definitely the highlight in Melodrama. The fact that these albums were incredible definitely doesn’t mean that Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic was trash. Bruno proved his pop-funk vocal ability through his relevant single releases, such as the track  “What I Like."

So in terms of which album is the least conceptual, least “out of the box," safest bet, and all around agreeably likable, that just so happens to be Bruno Mars. Not everyone is going to enjoy the other albums —they’re far too out of the ordinary, according to the Recording Academy’s standards. And this goes for the other categories as well.

On the other hand, I completely understand the desire for recognition. In every career, there’s an amazing feeling that comes with being awarded for something that you worked so hard on. I think in the music industry, this is especially true because it’s a body of work that often reflects something more internally personal. With that being said, keeping an open mind and low expectations is advisable when watching the Grammys. Everyone has a different taste in music, but what makes us the same is our appreciation for it. The Grammy Awards Show is a time where we can celebrate the creation of something out of nothing. At the same time, remember that the point of music is for it to be heard, not for it to receive awards.

Photo credits: cover, 1, 2, 3