The Grammys reflect currency, not excellence.
While the awards themselves are supposedly the most prestigious and honourable an artist can receive, the Grammys’ credibility when it comes to deciding what constitutes “outstanding” work has been highly compromised by a political voting system.
Cardi B’s and Megan Thee Stallion’s performance of WAP at the 2021 awards led some viewers to question whether the Grammys are even about music anymore. At an award show so prestigious, something so classless and dishonourable seemed out of place.
Artists like Cardi B can slip through the cracks and win awards solely based on their currency and popularity—and the voting system is to blame.
First, Grammy nominees and winners aren’t voted upon by credible critics or by fans. Rather, decisions are left to industry members: those who have won a Grammy before, someone endorsed by a current voting member, someone credited with 12 tracks released in the past five years, or with six credits on commercially released tracks distributed via record stores with at least one track in the past five years.
Inevitably, these voting members don’t have the time to listen to every artist or album in every category, especially rising, less popular artists, or first-time nominated artists.
Grammy screener Rob Kenner confirmed this notion, stating, given the grandiosity of the voting committee and the number of artists involved in each category, voting Academy members are unaware of artists outside the top 40 or the “big names.”
So, as a result, when voting time comes, the trending artists and reputable names are likely to receive more votes regardless of the quality of their work. Even if an artist’s name is only trending based on media scandals, their relevance can mean more than their talent.
While I love Beyoncé, she’s a perfect example of a big name who may win whether her music is good or bad. Someone living under a rock still knows the name Beyoncé. As a result, newer artists may get bulldozed in the voting process despite their exceptionality.
This prioritization of networking, money, and reputation create a barrier for newer artists trying to succeed in the industry.
It is no surprise Beyoncé has won more than 20 Grammys over the years, when her husband, Jay-Z, is a voting member who himself has more than 20 Grammys. Why would Jay-Z listen to and vote for new artists if his wife is nominated?
Lastly, and most frustratingly, the bar is on the ground for what most consider talented artists and exceptional art.
WAP singer Cardi B won a Grammy for Best Rap Album (2019). Meanwhile, internationally known, inspiring, and praised artists like Journey, Diana Ross, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Queen—amongst others—have never won a Grammy. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells regarding the credibility and validity of the current standard of quality music, nothing will.
Our idea of what qualifies as award-worthy music needs to be revisited to include artists and art independent of popularity, money, and connections.
Maddie is a third-year sociology student and The Journal’s Senior Lifestyle Editor.
award shows, celebrity, Grammy Awards, Grammys, Music
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