Grammy Award - Criticism

Criticism

The Grammy Awards has received criticism from various recording artists and music journalists.

When his band Pearl Jam won a Grammy in the category Best Hard Rock Performance in 1996, singer Eddie Vedder commented on stage: "I don't know what this means. I don't think it means anything." Glen Hansard, leader of the Irish rock group The Frames, stated in 2008 that the Grammys represent something outside of the real world of music "that's fully industry based." He said he wasn't that interested in attending that year's ceremony, even though he had been nominated for two different awards. Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of metal band Tool, did not attend the Grammy Awards ceremony to receive one of their awards. He explained his reasons:

I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don't honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It's the music business celebrating itself. That's basically what it's all about.

It has also been criticized for generally awarding or nominating more commercially successful albums rather than critically successful albums. In a 2011 article, Los Angeles Times writer Randall Roberts was critical of the nominations for the 54th Grammy Awards, particularly for the Album of the Year category, noting the exclusion of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, "the most critically acclaimed album of the year, a career-defining record", as a snub in favor of nominating less substantial albums. Roberts went on to criticize the Grammy Awards for being "mired in the past" and out of touch with "new media" and trends amongs music listeners such as music sharing, stating:

The major nominations for the 54th annual awards clearly show that the recording academy has been working overtime to be all-inclusive, but more significantly, they also reveal a deep chasm between its goals and the listening habits of the general population. And if one were to measure the vitality of American music through the filter of the Grammy nominations for song of the year and record of the year, one might think the economy wasn't the only thing that was sluggish. he focus is still on the old music industry model of cash-cow hits, major label investments and commercial radio. Falling behind the times is nothing new for the Grammys, but once they've lost sight of the artistry that makes music soar, they'll not just be irrelevant, they'll be out of business.

In an article for Time, journalist Touré also responded to the snub and expressed his general displeasure with the awards, stating "I don’t pretend to understand the Grammys. I have never been able to discern a consistent logic around who gets nominated or who gets statues. I comprehend the particular logic of the Oscars, but not the big awards for music. My normal state of confusion around what drives Grammy decisions was exponentialized this week when, to the shock of many, Kanye’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was not nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year." He went on to compare understanding the Grammy Awards to Kremlinology and commented on The Recording Academy's exclusion of more "mature" hip hop albums as Album of the Year nominees, noting that it occasionally opts to nominate "pop-friendly" hip hop albums instead.

In a 2011 profile for The New York Times following the 53rd Grammy Awards, frontman Justin Vernon of indie band Bon Iver was asked his opinion of the Grammys and how he would react to a nomination for his group, to which he responded, "You know I was thinking about that a couple of months ago, someone asked me that, and I was like 'I would go and I would' – and I don’t think the Bon Iver record is the kind of record that would get nominated for a Grammy – 'I would get up there and be like, ‘This is for my parents, because they supported me,’' because I know they would think it would be stupid of me not to go up there. But I kinda felt like going up there and being like: 'Everyone should go home, this is ridiculous. You should not be doing this. We should not be gathering in a big room and looking at each other and pretending that this is important.' That’s what I would say." He reaffirmed this sentiment and felt the Grammys are held in too, saying:

98 percent of the people in that room, their art is compromised by the fact that they’re thinking that, and that they’re hoping to get that award. And who is that award given by? It’s like they think it’s literally handed down by the musical-history gods. And I don’t know who the voters are. Like, I have a friend who’s a voter who was like, “I had to be a voter because I don’t trust the other voters.” And I was like, “Me either!” And it’s just not important and people spend too much time thinking about it. —Justin Vernon

Bon Iver subsequently received four nominations in November for the 54th Grammy Awards. After winning the award, Vernon said in his acceptance, "It's really hard to accept this award. There's so much talent out here and there's a lot of talent that's not here tonight. It's also hard to accept because you know, when I started to make songs I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here."

In his article "Everything Is Praised Again", Jon Caramanica of The New York Times criticized Grammy voters for being "conservative" and disregarding more "forward-looking" music, and wrote in response to the 54th Grammy Awards, "for the umpteenth time, the Grammys went with familiarity over risk, bestowing album of the year honors (and several more) on an album that reinforced the values of an older generation suspicious of change." He cited the Grammy successes of Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation (1999), Norah Jones' Come Away with Me (2003), and Adele's 21 (2011) as examples of "the Grammys dropp a boatload of awards on a young female singer-songwriter and her breakthrough album." Of Kanye West's absence from the ceremony, Caramanica stated, "He didn’t even bother to show up for the broadcast, which was well enough, because hip-hop was almost completely marginalized".

In an article for The Huffington Post, music executive and author Steve Stoute criticized the Recording Academy and the Grammy Awards for having "lost touch with contemporary popular culture" and noted "two key sources" for it: "(1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic." Stoute accused them of snubbing artists with more cultural impact, citing respective loses by the critical and commercial successes in Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) and Kanye West's Graduation (2007) in the Album of the Year category, and stated:

As an institution that celebrates artistic works of musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and technical specialists, we have come to expect that the Grammys upholds all of the values that reflect the very best in music that is born from our culture. Unfortunately, the awards show has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions, leaving me to question why any contemporary popular artist would even participate. While there is no doubt in my mind of the artistic talents of Steely Dan or Herbie Hancock, we must acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Eminem and Kanye West and how their music is shaping, influencing and defining the voice of a generation. It is this same cultural impact that acknowledged the commercial and critical success of Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1984. —Steve Stoute

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