11 Feb The Grammy Awards: To Be Taken Seriously?
The 57th Grammy Awards ceremony took place in the early hours of Monday morning while most of South Africa lay dormant, far from the hustle and bustle of this globally appreciated annual event. I’m certain that many of us rose and checked to see who walked away with the coveted awards on Monday morning; others will have dressed and eaten their cereal – completely oblivious or without a care. I, personally, never invest excess interest in the awards. I might hear some of the outcomes from friends or check them during a bout of procrastination. I might smile if a favourite artist of mine receives an award but that’s where it stops for me, and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, the Grammys are a hopelessly subjective affair. The members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) are the select few who vote – an incredibly small minority when regarding the size of the music industry. I don’t feel anyone should pin their hopes on the opinions of such a small group. Still, there is a definite need for award ceremonies in the music industry and the general public love drama so the final say (in this case) is given to a group of trusted sound engineers and producers. I often feel it would make more sense to simply give the awards to musicians whose work is regarded by some standardised system to be the best. This would, however, make the Grammy Awards a lot more dull and we know there is no place for this in our attention-deficit culture.
The minority vote method means that there is no certainty that the best nominee will receive the award. But to me the thing that makes the Grammys seem all the more arbitrary is the question of what ‘the best’ really is. Should a song or album be judged on its popularity, or more abstractly as a piece of art or on its composition? Just because something is popular does not mean it is particularly good or that it has any lasting value. A combination of these factors and more should be considered in order to conduct a meaningful award-giving ceremony.
I mean, we could go on for hours about whether Beyoncé deserved the Best Album Grammy more than Beck did. “Beyoncé’s album was unanimously accepted as brilliant by critics and fans alike! More so than Beck’s!” you might say. I could counter, “Beck wrote, produced and played 15 different instruments on his album. Beyoncé had a massive production team behind her album, and she was just the face of it,” and so on. The argument really wouldn’t matter at all. It would just show once again why the Grammys aren’t well focused and even more importantly why they aren’t a benchmark by which you should measure your musical tastes.
There are websites like Metacritic out there which do a much better job of accumulating critical and popular consensus than the Grammy Awards do. These sites are not perfect. They never will be. Music is abstract, it’s an art and it was born into subjectivity. But if you feel you need a scale by which to measure your music then websites such as Metacritic can be great indicators. And do you know what? While you’re out there searching they might just expose you to brilliant music that you will likely never see on the nominees list at a Grammy Awards ceremony.