At this point, should any of us (“us” being people who have genuinely good taste) be surprised at The Recording Academy’s choice of “quality music?” I mean, these are the same people who put both Taylor Swift and Macklemore above Kendrick Lamar in the past.
The Grammys has become less a marker of music worthy of critical acclaim and more of a shallow ceremony, highlighting the same popular artists who make the same popular music. The Grammys seems to reach new levels of mediocrity and ignorance when evaluating the content it designates accolades for.
I know, everybody’s a critic, so who am I to say who the best artists in music are right now?
But it doesn’t take a scholar to understand how bad it is that only 16 percent of the women nominated for a Grammy actually won. SZA and Jay-Z both getting snubbed after being the most nominated artists feels unjust. “Shape of You” winning over anything is simply terrible.
While this is the largest crime the Grammys committed this year, a close second is the absence of entertainment and fun.
It was flat out boring. With James Corden’s shaky, one-note delivery, predictable winners and a slew of utterly-forgettable performances, The Recording Academy showed it values quality music less and less.
Many of the other performances were good, but not great. Sam Smith’s gospel-tinged rendition of his song “Pray” was very Sam Smith, so to say. Though it was good to see someone whose gender identity doesn’t fit the heterogeneous mold, he did not take any risks or throw in any pleasant surprises.
Other performances like the “Tiny Dancer” Elton John and Miley Cyrus team-up and Little Big Town’s twangy country ballad “Better Man” were technically good, but offered nothing that could be worth mentioning in a week. It was quite an unforgettable performance.
Some minor highs that distracted from the snooze-fest were Gaga’s “Joanne/Million Reasons” piano mashup with Mark Ronson. With an angel wing piano, an elegant dress and simply the power of her vocal cords, Gaga kept it simple and classy.
Childish Gambino mirrored Gaga in his stripped-back, simple performance. Singing “Terrified” off of his nominated album Awaken, My Love!, on a moody, blue-tinged stage with an intimate band, Gambino belted in his upper register and proclaimed his love.
Gambino even brought on stage fellow, future Lion King star, JD McCrary, to add an extra flare to the performance.
Perhaps the biggest slap in the face came in the form of Best Pop Solo Performance, where Kesha’s profoundly-beautiful anthem about surviving sexual assault, “Praying,” along with three other strong female contenders, lost out to an Ed Sheeran song about eating Chinese food and fantasizing about women.
And then there was Bruno Mars. I really don’t hate Bruno Mars. He seems like a genuinely good person, his music isn’t terrible and he’s a pretty decent dancer. However, the fact that he swept all the categories he was nominated in, including Best R&B song with “That’s What I Like,” over many more deserving performers doesn’t seem right.
While 24K Magic does have R&B-leaning tendencies, it is a pop album through-and-through. These wins especially sting considering the talent of other artists nominated in these categories: SZA, Childish Gambino, Khalid, Daniel Caesar, Ledisi and so on.
It is disheartening that these primarily-black artists, who released music that embodied the true essence of authentic R&B, were denied in a category they specialized into a greater degree than Mars. Mars’s hits did not carry the same soulfulness. It seems as if the entire category got gypped.
The 60th Grammy Awards and The Recording Academy are flawed institutions. Between the dragging run time, the forgettable performances, the predictably-terrible winners and the droll “comedy” of James Corden, the Grammys is becoming more and more of a parody of itself and the joke has gotten old quick.