Despite all the recent controversy surrounding the Grammy Awards, this year the Recording Academy managed to shine a spotlight on a major creator with an urgent message for the American public. And has anyone said anything more urgent than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?
Not for lack of trying. “We’re here because music serves the world,” said the Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. In a pre-recorded message, “and at the new Recording Academy” — the “new” emphasized with one of those thumb points that politicians do — “we serve music.”
Over the past half-decade, as the rise of streaming propelled lighter, more pop-friendly sounds to the top of the charts, music fans have complained about the Academy’s offering. They’ve boldly argued that today’s Grammys often recognize the sounds of yesterday without acknowledging the diversity of today’s music business. Many of them make good points. Some of them are probably even watching CBS live. Because if the real question here is who the Grammys are for, they’re for people who do it.
Just ask Trevor Noah. “This,” said the moderator in his opening monologue, “is a concert where we give out prizes.” At least this year it was mostly good.
As for the awards, well, Jon Batiste won Album of the Year as well as four other awards; Silk Sonic won Record of the Year and Song of the Year (which went to its writers) for Leave the Door Open, and Olivia Rodrigo picked up Best New Artist among two others. And with Batiste not a huge star and Silk Sonic something of a throwback, the new Recording Academy hasn’t exactly parted with the past. If anything, it demonstrated once again how creators and industry leaders value certain types of music more than fans or critics.
It makes her look silly sometimes. “The Grammys have always been like this” Rolling Stone Senior writer Brian Hiatt pointed this out on Twitter. “When you think of 1992, do you think of Natalie Cole? Because she won Album of the Year that year.” About Pearl Jams TenA tribe called Quest’s The Low End Theory and nirvana no matter (the latter two both came out on September 24, 1991). The name of Cole’s winning album? Unforgettable.
Now academy voters are getting more criticism for not simply voting for what’s popular – particularly from the salt-of-the-earth populists at The New York times who explained that at this year’s show “the young are most successful when they appear old”. (This just a year after “the Grammys discover youth.”) But in a world dominated by viral streaming hits, shouldn’t it be refreshing to shine the spotlight on something else? The Oscars do this every year.
More than other awards shows, however, the Grammys always seem to come back to the same breed of creators — not just to recognize them, but to showcase and perform them. Steeped in the styles Academy voters grew up with, they tend to make music that’s classy but rarely surprising, serious but also sophisticated. Think of YOU, John Legend, Bruno Mars and others. What are they if not “Grammycore”?
These creators’ performances and successes at the Grammy Awards have become predictable. But that is not the result of any conspiracy, but the fact that notions of good taste are as valid among professionals as they are among critics. Because while critics and fans may see Batiste and Silk Sonic as dated, Academy voters might admire them for making albums that sound a little less slick than many of the year’s biggest hits. At a time when industry executives are more excited than ever about the commercial potential of streaming viral hits, some are quietly expressing more respect for career artists.
It’s easy to poke fun at the Grammys for doing everything wrong — because they made their choice Unforgettable above no matter. But the idea that music business professionals can act as critics seems silly: these are peer-voting awards, with all the bias and flaws that implies. It’s even weirder to complain that the most popular artists don’t win – surely that award will serve Batiste more than Drake.
With pop music, relevance is often in the ear of the beholder. One of the big failures, often cited by Grammy critics, was Steely Dan’s 2001 Album of the Year award, at a time when hip-hop was on the rise. On the other hand, it’s hard to find a classic rock act whose music is more sampled.
https://www.billboard.com/pro/grammys-2022-winners-analysis-grammycore-for-the-record/ For the record – billboard