The Grammy Awards are what they are


By Boswell Hutson

I don’t know if I’m quite ready to admit this or not, but as a media-junkie, awards season is on par with the NCAA Tournament and the Olympics.

OK, that was intentional hyperbole, but watching an awards show while reading the comments made about it on Twitter is one of my many completely useless talents, and makes Sunday nights in the late winter just a little more interesting.

For the same reason I love sports and politics, award shows are fascinating in that they present a competition, which is something innately fascinating to humans, I suppose.

Last night, the Grammys resulted in yet another three hours spent in front of my computer scrolling my Twitter timeline. Social media commentary is at an all time high when there’s a singular event occupying the attention of everyone I follow. As a rabid music fan, I am naturally interested in what everyone has to say.

But despite the Twitter population’s focus, there are constant complaints and outcries directed toward the show.

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People often complain that the Grammys leave out entire chunks of music culture and genres while glorifying other parts, seemingly disproportionately. You’re much more likely to see Beyonce on the Grammys than Bombay Bicycle Club or Vic Mensa, and fans of these genres that are left out tend to reject the significance of the event itself.

As an avid fan of underground hip-hop and indie rock, two genres that are unsurprisingly rarely included in the awards, watching the Grammys often feels watered-down, kind of like the music industry’s version of a nice Keystone Light.

But then I had a remarkable epiphany: The Grammys are meant to represent the most popular music, not necessarily the best or most innovative.

The Grammys represent the tastes of a diversified populous, which ultimately boils down to awards being given to musicians who generally sell the most records and bring out the biggest crowds to their concerts. Though many listeners wish it would focus more on music they’re personally invested in, the Grammys are perfectly adequate for what they are.

While people on social media platforms poke fun at the performances, what the artists are wearing or the occasional teleprompter reading mishap, these snubs and genre-exclusions are a focus, too. Last year’s selection of Macklemore over Kendrick Lamar for the Best Rap Album was especially provocative, prompting literally every music reporter (intentional hyperbole, once again) in the country to write a think-piece or a feature on that specific award, and the fact that Lamar got snubbed.

Broad-sweeping distaste with the Grammys didn’t start last year, though. Countless artists have been snubbed for awards that they surely should have gotten in hindsight. Artists who fall into this category include Elvis Costello, who lost “Best New Artist” to A Taste of Honey in 1979, and The Beatles and The Beach Boys, who were passed over in 1966 for The New Vaudeville Band for Best Rock Recording.

In addition to these historical snubs, another common theme across the board with the show, however, is that the Grammys as a whole are headed for some great decline from what they used to be.

Just like many of my friends, I used to be frustrated with the Grammys, too, but only after I saw Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons’ performance together last year did I fully understand what the Grammys truly are: A night to celebrate the most popular music in the world via insane collaboration and a lot of awkward presenters opening envelopes. The fact that Imagine Dragons, a band that I have never been that fond of, could collaborate with Kendrick Lamar and put on an electrifying performance was something to behold.

Yeah, you probably saw too many shots of Taylor Swift for your own good last night — we get it, she’s America’s sweetheart. I’m over it, too — but it is very rare, if ever, that we’re given the opportunity to see the collaboration between some of the most diverse and talented artists in history. Where else could we have seen Elton John perform with Eminem, or a Beatle (Paul McCartney), an artistic visionary who also happens to know everything (Kanye West) and a pop princess (Rihanna) on the same stage?

The Grammys are great for what they are — a massive collaborative concert between the most popular artists across genres. They can’t devote as much attention to underground hip-hop, electronic or independent rock music because those genres simply aren’t as popular as what wins Grammys. They’re not playing in every dentist’s office and grocery store, and pop music is.

This year, I went into the Grammys with an open mind, and I’m never looking back. It’s a lot more fun to watch if you stop caring about who wins, and just marvel at the spectacle. But hey, man, that’s just me.

Boswell is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].