The Grammys are renowned for having controversial selections, snubs, and outright blunders. Taking a trip down memory lane, here are FIB’s thoughts on the last few years.
The major controversy surrounding the 2016 Grammys (apart from Swift’s subtle response to Kanye West’s degrading lyrics “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex…I made that bitch famous”), was the choice to award Taylor Album of the Year for 1989 over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
Lamar’s revolutionary album had an unprecedented exploration of the continued racism that African Americans endure. Its message provides it with the very valid argument that he deserved the win over Taylor Swift. However, when we pit a powerful album against an immaculately produced one, popularity tends to win out. Whist it was the safe option, this doesn’t mean Swift’s album should have lost to Lamar, if To Pimp a Butterfly was not in the running, perhaps there would be no division over the award.
The leading criticism for the decision is that the safe option of selecting Swift, a white woman whose songs are sweet and simple, was easier than giving recognition to the complexity of Lamar’s album. However, if we tear Swift down for an award she had no influence over receiving, then we place ourselves amongst the Kanye Wests of the world. 1989 sold over 1.287 million copies in its first week of release and was the only album in 2014 to hit the one-million threshold for sales. Its commercial and critical success lends weight to the Recording Academy’s decision to select 1989 for Album of the Year, but we shouldn’t let that take away from To Pimp A Butterfly’s message.
The greatest snub of the night was probably for Record of the Year, which was won by Ed Sheeran for Thinking Out Loud. Kendrick Lamar’s enlightened and powerful record Alright has had a lasting cultural impact. Its assessment of police brutality was a profound statement amongst a whirlwind of increased reports about police attacks and systemic racism. Whilst Sheeran’s song was certainly the most popular wedding song of the year, the production and lyrics of Alright should have won over Thinking Out Loud.
At the end of the day, it should be recognised that Swift and Lamar shared an award that night for Best Music Video with their collaboration on Swift’s original song Bad Blood. Whilst in no way does this offer a resolution to one of the most controversial debates of the Grammys, it may be the best one we are going to get.
The most striking snub of the 2017 Grammys was announced by the winner for Album of the Year (which was unprecedented).
Adele won the award for her chart topping, critically acclaimed album 25. In her heartfelt acceptance speech, she dedicated the award to Beyoncé and thanked her for empowering black women around the world. There seems to be a common thread with the Grammys, powerful albums by people of colour are typically sidelined. However, Adele’s album 25 was stunning, and the production was spectacular.
If we consider the winning albums of 2016 and 2017, it seems that the sensationally sweet pop albums by white women win against powerful, complex albums by black artists. This doesn’t mean those artists are less deserving, but is perhaps a comment on wider society itself.
The universally acknowledged truth in popular culture, is that the 2018 Grammys were a mess. From the complete under-representation of women in the major categories to the decision to award Bruno Mars for Album of the Year, it was full of blunders.
Perhaps the major take away from the night was the severe lack of women in the awards ceremony. For starters, of the four nominees for Album of the Year, only one album was by a woman. Lorde’s album Melodrama was pop perfection, her voice, lyrics and production was spectacularly received by critics, and yet, of the four nominees for the award, she wasn’t asked to perform that night. Only three of the four nominees performed, and you can bet that it was the three men who were nominated, sidelining the only female nominee to the bench.
In fact, only one woman won an award in the major categories that year (these are: Pop, Rock, Country and RnB). Alessia Cara won Best New Artist, and even then she was forced to defend her win. According to the Recording Association President Neil Portnow, women just needed to “step up.” (I’m serious. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.)
Also, somehow, Bruno Mars’s album 24k Magic beat out Lorde, Kendrick Lamar (poor guy can’t catch a break) and Childish Gambino.
This year, after the 2018 mess, Album of the Year nominations were extended from 5 possible nominations to 8, and finally, 5 of them were women.
The snubs this year were certainly less controversial than 2018’s blunders, but that doesn’t mean a particular album’s nomination for Album of the Year wasn’t a travesty.
The selection of Kacey Musgraves’s beautiful album Golden Hour for Album of the Year makes it the first country album to win the category since Swift’s Fearless(which is the most decorated country album in history). The album was definitely deserving and full of lyrical masterpieces:
“Coming through the melody when the night bird sings/Love is a wild thing.”
Perhaps my only real problem with the 2019 Grammys was the selection of Cardi B over Ed Sheeran’s Divide and Taylor Swift’s Reputation (which continues to stick out like a sore thumb amongst her oeuvre). Reputation outsold all the albums nominated for Album of the Year, combined, but its lead single Look What You Made Me Do was a harsh, shocking comeback from the sensationally sweet album 1989. Its true lyrical masterpieces, Delicate, Getaway Car, Dancing With Our Hands Tied and (my personal favourite) Dress were blindsided by the angry repetitiveness of her worst single Look What You Made Me Do.
My main concern with the nominees for Album of the Year was Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy. Seriously, how could she be nominated over Sheeran and Swift?
Here is a sample of the lyrics from the Grammy nominated Album of the Year, Invasion of Privacy:
“Guap, guap, get some chicken, guap, guap.”
Here is a sample from Sheeran’s Divide:
“And to the next generation, inspiration’s allowed. The world may be filled with hate, but keep erasing it now, somehow.”
And Swift’s Reputation:
“The ties were black, the lies were white/In shades of grey and candlelight.”
I wish I was kidding when I said that Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy was nominated over Divide and Reputation.
What Do Awards Even Mean?
This month, when Halsey accepted the award for Favourite Pop/Rock Song at the 2019 AMAs, she asked her audience about their worth, and Taylor Swift also reiterated her point in an acceptance speech that night. Perhaps, whilst these awards are popular and give recognition to artists, the true acknowledgement artists receive is from their fans and the people their lyrics connect with. If we based opinions and weight upon awards then Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and Lorde wouldn’t have the success and impact they do.
What are the worst Grammy blunders you remember? Let us know in the comments down below!