It’s probably because I live in this indie bubble, but I cannot name Grammy winners from any previous year. I actually know it’s me. I don’t listen to a lot of pop music and when the Grammys come out with their nominations I don’t really care because the bands I enjoy the most are hardly recognized. The thing is: the Grammys feel meaningless to me, it feels like they’re haphazardly put together and awarded based on clout and money.
Currently, this is the ruleset for creating the nominations for Grammys:
1. More than 20,000 artistic entries are submitted for consideration, and members vote one round, making up to five selections in each category.
2. A “star chamber” of experts — about 150 from the various fields — reviews round one’s selections and casts secret ballots to determine the final nominations, honing the choices in each category from 15 to five.
3. Grammy voters review the final list, the nominations (now five in each category), and place one vote in up to 20 categories (according to their fields of expertise), then mail in their votes on a paper ballot. Accounting firm Deloitte tallies the votes and places winners’ names in sealed envelopes.
Now the ruleset seems justified and balanced to me (Other than Deloitte taking the tallies, I think it would be more of an EY job) That doesn’t explain to me why Mumford and Sons won album of the year in 2012 over Channel Orange and K.’s MAAD City. I think that a few things can fix the decision of the winners of these categories.
Three Solutions for Creating a More Meaningful Grammys
- Award them on a five-year delay (Except best new artist, though it needs a large restructuring)
- Choose artists and albums regardless of genre (Except for specialized genres i.e. Comedy, Spoken Word, Children’s, Musical Theatre, Visual Media, etc.)
- Try to pick the best in the category, this can be accomplished by making the “Star Chamber” more specialized into certain categories (Also can be accomplished by extending the “Star Chamber” who vote on albums)
First of all, if we really want to award what is known as the best album of the year, we should really hope to award the album that has a lasting impression of what the quality of music is on that year. For the last six years, the albums that were awarded best album of the year were (in order) Adele’s 21, Mumford & Son’s Babel, Daft Punk’s RAM, Beck’s Morning Phase, Taylor Swift’s 1989, and Adele’s 25. I have seen nothing on the internet to support these claims past the year that they were made, making them usually less cherished as the year they were awarded. The only exception I can find within the past decade is before the years I just wrote about, when Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was released. Giving a five year delay would help reviewers see the albums that had real impacts on music in the year that they were released, or giving this award for every category while the album for the year in question will give help give an audience a contrasting opinion on what was previously said. Also, can we admit the best new artist category is a farce? Chance the Rapper received the award this year. Do you think the Grammy Committee understands that that was his third album? Does he wear the hat with the three on it for no reason? Either rename the category, or award it to the best NEW artist.
Second, genres don’t exist. Calling a category “Urban Contemporary” just seems like an excuse to section off people of color into one specific group. Kanye’s TLOP has more gospel in it, should it be put into the Gospel Category? The thing about music that I don’t feel like The Grammys understand is that it is an ever changing medium that can have different classifications that can all be correct at the same time. Is Kanye Urban Contemporary, R&B, Gospel, or Rap? Yes. The answer to that question is yes; he is all of those things at various times. The solution would be to award someone for a lot of different genres, create a category for each different sub-genre, or get rid of the classification of genres altogether.
Try to pick the best in a category. I think that saying that people in the selection committee can vote on up to 20 categories really cheapens their vote. If people in the selection committee were able to vote on only five categories: four categories within their specialty, and one category in the generalized categories would make their vote count more. Also, having more people vote would allow to have a larger sample size be able to select what they actually felt the best album was.
Lastly, I would just like to say that none of this should work in the end. Music is inherently subjective and creating more specialized, less specific, more thought out awards will not fix creating a ranking on a subjective topic. Some people will get wrongfully awarded, and some people will get snubbed… that’s how it goes.