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The Problem with the Grammys

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When exactly did I feel like the Grammys lost their credibility?

It may have been in 2012 when Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wasn’t nominated for Album of the Year.

Maybe it was in 2014 when Macklemore’s The Heist won Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city.

Perhaps the most egregious of all was The Epic, a modern-day jazz masterpiece by Kamasi Washington, not receiving a single nomination in any jazz categories. The reason why I found this last one so blatantly offensive is that usually, the Grammys get away with their questionable decisions by pandering to the majority and selecting the winner based on popularity or appealing to the broadest general interest. But at least the Grammys were able to maintain some legitimacy by either giving just a nomination or by awarding a neglected artist in a future Grammy ceremony. The fact that the entire jazz field was absolutely blown out of the water by The Epic clearly demonstrates how far the Grammys have strayed from any credibility.

This year’s Grammys were no exception with the usual pandering to popular taste. To be fair the Grammys have a difficult job compared to other awards shows. This is easily demonstrated by the vast number of categories at the Grammys and for music in general. Musical tastes tend to be more category based which makes it difficult to compare albums from different genres in general categories. This dilemma was clearly what drove the decision that Bruno Mars should net 6 Grammys, including Album of the Year. The nominations for this category was filled with acclaimed albums and I would have been perfectly happy with any other album winning. Unfortunately, 24K Magic is the least offensive for general audiences and plus its singles were really popular.

I wonder whether there is a real case to be made that award ceremonies should be reflective of the general sentiment of the times. A response would be that when most people listen to music they aren’t necessarily looking to be challenged musically which is why there is a larger focus on singles and pop music. Should Beyoncé’s Lemonade have won Album of the Year last year because it was the most socially-aware album from a black, female artist or should it have won because it was musically superior to the vast majority of albums last year? Is there even a case to convince someone that an album is musically superior? Tough sell.

Jing Bo Yu is a 2L and the Culture Editor for Juris Diction.

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