[The Grammys] just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from and hold down what I hold down – Frank Ocean
In the last two weeks, Drake, Justin Bieber and Kanye West have all reportedly decided to boycott the 2017 Grammys due to the lack of diversity and representation in its nominations. This isn’t surprising. Awards have become the scourge of the music industry, meaningless hunks of metal that most likely only have their place on the windowsill in Adele’s toilet or in Beyoncé’s kid’s toy box.
Even before Grammy nominations were announced, there was months of work behind the scenes. Various musical organisations, most often record labels, submit their artists’ work to be considered for nomination by the members of the academy, who are industry professionals and those with numerous song accreditations who also pay $100 a year for the honour of picking who gets to put a fun marketing sticker on their CDs.
Frank Ocean, despite the critical acclaim of long-awaited album Blonde, never submitted his album for consideration, cryptically telling the New York Times last year, “it just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from and hold down what I hold down.” It is very true that it is only a handful of mainstream artists from Frank’s genre who get recognition at these awards.
So, finally, we are resisting the pull of these unrepresentative events. Just look at the nominations for Record of the Year – ‘7 Years’ by Lukas Graham is listed, despite possibly being one of the blandest and most badly-written songs to come out in the last year. Anderson Paak has been nominated for Best New Artist despite having released two successful albums in the last two years, which highlights just how out of touch this committee is. Scanning the nominations, it’s mostly the same five people being nominated over and over again, with zero diversity or acknowledgement for genres outside of the average pop music, other than a handful of specialist categories.
The Grammys are not even the worst perpetrator. The Mercury Prize seems to be modelled on supporting new and developing artists by giving the winner £25,000, but to even enter labels have to pay a fee upwards of £200. At the actual event, any extra seats other than the band members and their plus ones cost £400. On top of that, David Bowie’s Blackstar was controversially on the most recent shortlist. Even without him passing away at the beginning of 2016, what good is it to give that amount of money to an extremely famous and well-respected musician who holds a career spanning decades?
Music awards are simply a means of promotion. I imagine that those who walk away with a handful of awards experience a significant surge in both listeners and their royalty checks. As an event, it is simply a PR extravaganza to bring publicity to these musicians, many of whom are high-profile celebrities. The VMAs seem to be generated just to give the celebrity press something to write about – would it be the same without Nicki Minaj’s iconic “Miley, what’s good?”, or Beyoncé rubbing her pregnant belly at the end of her performance to announce that her first child was on the way?
Every time I’ve seen Kanye hop on stage to protest Beyoncé not winning something, I cannot understand why he even cares enough to make the walk there. He is a successful, widely respected artist with a massive fan base, as is Beyoncé. So why is he getting himself worked up over a lump of metal? What purpose does it serve? I’m surprised it has taken this long for artists to start boycotting these events. It is simply a more covert marketing method than a TV ad, which in many ways restricts the kind of music that is appreciated in the mainstream. Anyone who is truly passionate about music will look outside of this strange, unnecessary ritual for the music they love, which is why the Grammys and all awards that go with it are devoid of real value.
(Image: Tell Tales)