Opinion: The Grammys are the “Bad Guy”

Billie Eilish, pictured with the five Grammys she won. Photo courtesy of grammy.com

Billie Eilish, pictured with the five Grammys she won. Photo courtesy of grammy.com

Abi Wilson '20, Graphics Manager

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It was a good night to be a Billie Eilish fan. Otherwise, it was about what you expect from the Grammys, maybe worse.
The Grammys like to pride themselves on being the leading voice on quality in the music industry. They described themselves as “music’s only peer-recognized accolade and highest achievement,” according to their website.
I’m not sure where to begin breaking that down.
‘Out of touch’ doesn’t seem strong enough when it comes to describing the Grammys. They have a history of huge oversights in the industry and nothing was different this year.
Huge artists like Taylor Swift and Halsey were absent from the biggest categories of the night, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. Instead Billie Eilish won all three of those categories and Best New Artist as well.
Going into the show, I thought it would be a much tougher race between three breakthrough artists this year, Eilish, Lil Nas X and Lizzo, all three of whom had monumental success. However, Eilish swept the competition. Lil Nas X and Lizzo both won awards, but none in the four main categories.
Eilish is undoubtedly a talented artist, and I like a lot of her work, but to choose “Bad Guy” over the meme-song turned chart topper that set the record for number of weeks at #1, “Old Town Road”, was the wrong choice.
Then again, the Grammys have always had a tough time with celebrating rap and hip-hop. “Old Town Road” isn’t necessarily a rap song, but does have hip hop elements, and with the Grammys’ history of winners, it didn’t stand a chance in the main categories. To further this problem, the winner of Best Rap Album of the Year was Igor by Tyler, the Creator. The album has rap parts on it but is a far cry from other albums in that category, and would’ve fit better in the pop category.
But that is simply what is to be expected of the show that labelled “Panini” by Lil Nas X a rap song and gave one of the biggest bands on the planet and pioneers of Kpop in the U.S. market, BTS, the same performing slot and number of nominations as Mason Ramsey– the Walmart yodelling kid. The Grammys don’t like looking outside of pop music when it comes to awards, and tend towards safer, radio-friendly picks over experimental or non-pop music.
I know I shouldn’t expect much from an awards show that is essentially music industry executives patting themselves on the back, especially with their voting practices being called into question by the former Chief Executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, according to the New York Times. Dugan released a memo citing many issues within the institution, from conflict of interest among board members to voting irregularities, according to the New York Times.
It’s not a hard pill to swallow that the executives of the Grammys choose to honor music they or their friends made, but I still hoped that I would be wrong.
The Grammys was full of performances but “moments” were few and far between. I question the choice to give a full performance to Demi Lovato, who didn’t release anything in 2019, and two to Camila Cabello who was nominated for only one award; in a collaboration category.
There were some performances that were interesting to watch, but with something as temporarily relevant as the Grammys, I doubt they will outlive the show. The biggest complaint I have for the show is that while there was nothing objectively wrong about it, there was nothing that fueled the reputation it so desperately desires.
The best performances of the night, in my opinion, were Lil Nas X, Rosalia, Lizzo and Ariana Grande, none of whom went home with major awards. Their performances seemed to have passion and excitement behind them that was lacking in the rest of the show.
I think that the Grammys should be a celebration of music, but this year it reflected the worst trends of pop music: uninspired, unpassionate, self-congratulatory and artistically empty.
At the end of the day, we must remember that the Grammys is just a very long and very boring awards show, and not the end-all be-all of music. As genre barriers continue to blur and music taste continues to diversify with the help of streaming, the idea of one body dictating the best music of the year is becoming outdated.
With all of the new voices joining the music scene, one awards show simply can’t showcase them all, and especially one that claims to be the “the world’s leading society of music professionals,” according to the Grammys’ website, but won’t look outside of the pop charts for their biggest categories.
Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud and YouTube have all changed the way we consume music, and with that change we must find new ways of measuring success. That success shouldn’t be passed around the same circle of executives, but instead be chosen by the people who actually consume popular music. In the coming years, I think we will see more award shows take a similar approach to the American Music Awards, who award based on fan votes, or the Billboard Music Awards that go by sales.
To wrap it up, I’ll leave you with the words of Drake’s speech after winning Best Rap Song for 2018, “I wanna let you know we’re playing in an opinion-based sport not a factual-based sport… This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people who might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say or a fly Spanish girl from New York or anybody else, or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis [Scott]. But my point is you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need [a Grammy]. I promise you, you already won.”