The Grammys (and Why We Expect Too Much from Them)

‘They don’t matter that much, don’t get upset about who wins and who gets snubbed,’ is something I tell myself every year when the Grammys come around the corner – yet, every year, I find myself more and more disappointed. 

My first encounter with true disappointment over the Grammys came in 2014, when Macklemore’s pop/rap album The Heist beat Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, MAAD City for ‘Best Rap Album’ at the awards. Macklemore’s album was good – a fun, wild project that produced multiple hit records; but Kendrick made Good Kid, MAAD City. The album was a whole different level of hip hop, filled wall-to-wall with incredible production, storytelling, and lyrical hip hop that provided the first look at Compton that felt genuine and gritty since NWA. While most rappers from Compton made music about celebrations and triumphs (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Coolio), Lamar made an album that placed listeners right beside a teenage version of himself on the Compton streets, and delved as far as possible without sacrificing musicality. 

Macklemore himself said in the first 24 hours after his win that he felt he’d ‘robbed’ Kendrick of a Grammy, and that he felt the awards didn’t do Good Kid ‘any sort of justice.’ The snub of Lamar genuinely upset fans and rappers alike, and is still remembered today as one of the greatest screw-ups in Grammy history.

In 2016, the next opportunity the academy had to crown Lamar, they did. Overcompensation might be the best way to describe it. While To Pimp A Butterfly is an incredible album, a couple of the wins for Lamar felt forced, like when The Departed won ‘Best Picture’ to make up for all of Martin Scorsese’s snubs in years prior. While it was obvious that TPAB was a great album, the five Grammys that it got seemed to be a stretch in certain categories. 

My opinion on the Grammys has lessened in the years since 2014, but in 2018, I did everything I could to be prepared for all of the categories for the 61stAnnual Grammys. I listened to albums from artists I had never heard of before: Tierra Whack, Janelle Monáe, and Kacey Musgraves all joined my regular rotation of music – I prepared myself to look at the Grammys from a critical angle – not as a fan. 

And… disappointment. Janelle Monáe got robbed in her pursuit of ‘Album of the Year.’ Dirty Computer was a project that broke barriers and created its own path and sound in 2018, and it has no Grammys to show for it. Travis Scott made one of the most creative albums of all time in ASTROWORLD, Pusha T rapped his ass off, and Mac Miller made an album that touched on issues that affect us all, all to be beaten by an average female rapper from Queens who couldn’t make a single song that didn’t mention her ass or career as a former stripper. It isn’t that I dislike Cardi B or have any sort of hatred towards her music – I don’t, but no one should be able to tell me with a straight face that she made one of the top ten hip hop albums in 2018, let alone the best

The academy is full of voters who claim they want more than standard rap, but year after year, they select the most generic, accessible albums over albums with substance and genre-breaking ideas. Make up your mind. Please. Rappers like Pusha T constantly push the genre forward and put out meaningful projects, yet sell under 100k first week, can’t sell out club venues, and don’t get recognition at award shows; and then people wonder why rappers stick to the basics and stereotypes of hip hop culture.

Oh, and we do ties now (apparently). What kind of ‘prestigious’ award show has ever done ties? While I know The Grammys has done this in the past, this year featured three ties, while there were only 18 in the past 60 years. The credibility of the academy takes a nosedives with every award/tie/participation they hand out to the artist who’s the most popular.

[After a 20 minute cooldown period, he continues to write]

It’s not that I hate The Grammys – I truly love the excitement they bring at the top of every year and the opportunities they grant artists annually; however, as the streaming era of music becomes more relevant, The Grammys have failed continuously to reward albums that deserve their award. The academy checks the charts, sees which albums are popular, and continues from there. 

There is something truly flawed about the way The Grammys have been ran in recent years, and until it changes, their ratings and credibility will continue to fall.