It’s not mind-blowing that the Grammys are considered the premier celebration of the art of music, and that they recognize artists for their dedication and commitment to what they do. Nominees are chosen each year, and a committee votes on the choices for the most deserving of the categories. It seems as though it is a fair system, but years of questioning the system are boiling into an assertive rage. Many complaints strike the flint behind the fiery accusations that the Grammys are playing to the status quo and pampering the mainstream and “obvious” choices for winners, thus completely disregarding any artist that may truly be deserving of a nod that could push their career forward or ignoring an artist that has been on the block for not just years but decades.
The first telling sign of the decline of the Grammys is apparent in the limited amount of awards that are televised. A total of 10 awards were shown during the national broadcast, and an incredible 46 awards were not. The awards show is 3½ hours. Including the commercials, that still leaves a wealth of time to fit in more awards. Instead, 17 performances were used to fill the voids, and the ratings. The performances were collaborations of artists that viewers would already expect to win a Grammy, or who already have. Nonetheless, the performers also fit into a very small category of music. There were those that were worth presenting to the masses, such as the half Beatles reunion of Paul McCartney and Ring Starr, but the genres of jazz, blues, rock and even R&B were belittled to high-profile hits that have become recognized only in the past six months, in some cases. They even seem to be doubling down on the same award to publicize hits. What is the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year? The nominees for both were all individual songs, some repeated in each category. Sure, the Record of the Year award credits the producers, but they could easily be merged into one category.
As far as the quality of the music goes, many artists have that taken care of by their producers and songwriters. Like clockwork, the music becomes a hit. The Grammys could improve by giving the songwriters some credit during the show, or bringing hardworking blues and jazz musicians to the spotlight for once, along with composers of magnificent scores. Gary Clark Jr. was a hit in his performance, so the blues genre isn’t unmarketable to the masses. As far as musicality and competence go, blues and jazz artists and composers are stronger by leagues than those that get the spotlight.
The decisions regarding rock and metal have to take the award for “Clueless Committee Work of Every Year.” The blunders here are everlasting. In 1989, Jethro Tull was placed in the Best Metal Performance category and beat Metallica, an actual metal artist. Yes, Jethro Tull. The band with the dancing flute player won a metal Grammy. Last year, the metal category was a mess. The nominees included prog-giants Dream Theater, thrash legends Megadeth and the more modern and edgy Mastodon, but Sum 41, a punk group, and the Foo Fighters, who are beloved by the Grammys, sneaked in. Megadeth, which has been nominated several times, looked like the clear winner, with Dream Theater a close second. But the Foo Fighters took it home, with lead singer Dave Grohl shocked that he beat both of those bands. This brings to light the corruption of the voting process.
The most offensive gesture of this year’s Grammys was a snub on the In Memoriam slideshow. Jeff Hanneman of Slayer and Clive Burr, formerly of Iron Maiden, died, disrupting the peace in the music world last year. Neither of them showed up in the memorial. Could it be a bias against metal? Possibly. One may argue that it was a mistake, but evidence suggests not, as both artists show up in the “musical obituary” of the Grammys website. On top of that, Hanneman has won two Grammys, so there is no excuse to leave him off. It is very disrespectful to their family, friends and fans.
The Grammys should be a celebration of all musical genres, and respect all equally, avoiding the temptations of ratings and opinions. All artists respect their fans for what they do to support them, and they should receive respect in return.
John H. Coudriet is a sophomore at Amherst High School.