Arts, Column

The Results Are In: A Case For The Grammys

The Grammys are over. Madonna once again forced herself back into relevance. The Beatles sort of got back together. LL Cool J continued to be really earnest about music, and people, bless their hearts, continued to claim that the Grammys are a sham, a waste of time, and that they don’t matter.

Admittedly, at the time of writing this, the Grammys have yet to begin. But for my part, the results aren’t important. Maybe Macklemore and Ryan Lewis pulled a heist out from under the coastal kings of Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar. Maybe Lorde took the crown from right under Beyonce’s (the queen’s) nose. What’s important is that awards were handed out and that across the country people rose up in righteous anger declaring the monotony of modern music. Kanye West fans and (hopefully) Kanye himself took to Twitter and I’m hoping the streets to right the wrongs done to his snubbed Yeezus. Today, people will hold up Yeezusand whatever else they feel was wronged and declare that because the Grammys supposedly got it wrong here, they are discredited forever.

I’m hard pressed to find an award show more maligned than the Grammys. The Oscars get some flak for being backwards and conservative (see The King’s Speechover The Social Network), but the Grammys have always rewarded those who harken back to the good old days (see Mumford & Sons). The Grammys reward safely. Maybe that changed this year, but I doubt it.

Despite our protests, the Grammys do bring something to the table-the proverbial table where we sit and discuss music. It drops an authoritative Grammy on the table in hopes of officially marking the best music of the year. Then someone bangs the table and the arguments begin anew.

People are upset by award shows for two possible reasons. They think the award show got it wrong, or they just hate the idea of award shows. I understand why people despise award shows. I understand the hypocrisy of artists who bow to the high and glorious power of “art” as awards for said “art” are cycled between the same artists year after year. There’s a notion that in particular the Grammys are the worst offenders of this hypocrisy, because music is an art form practiced more widely than film or television. Comparatively, it’s easy to find the best shows and movies. You can just go to the movie theater or turn on your television. But maybe some ragtag band of 16-year-old kids are banging away at a new sound, that who knows, may even deserve a Grammy. Maybe some unknown upstart in Chicago really was the best rapper this year. There’s a particular notion when it comes to music, that the Grammys are not where the best music happens, that these artists don’t deserve awards, that no artists in fact deserve awards, that a Grammy doesn’t matter, that the Grammys shouldn’t be.

I think that’s a novel idea, but why stop there? Why not get rid of the lot of “Best of 2013” lists polluting the web in December. Why even rate albums? Why keep track of what’s good or not? Let’s just let art be art.

There’s a reason The Heights rates albums, movies, and anything we can get our rate-hungry hands on. There’s a reason a lot of arguments between friends revolve around who gets to be the DJ. We watch the Grammys to confirm our tastes. We watch to validate the countless hours we’ve spent listening to “Royals” or the countless times we’ve argued that “22” is the worst thing to happen to music since Bieber crossed the border.

The Grammys seemingly stand in the way of an artistic utopia-a world where art is just art and seedy corporations mind their own damn business. And while the Grammys often miss the mark, like I’m guessing they did last night, the Grammys are still important. Sure the Grammys exist so the music industry can sell more albums, but the Grammys also exist so we can hate the Grammys. Album ratings exist so you can disagree with them. Ratings, and yes, the Grammys make the proverbial table fun.

The Grammys proudly bear the tag of “the establishment.” The Grammys ignorantly wear the black hat. And without it, talking and writing about music wouldn’t be nearly as fun. Sure, the Grammys hand out awards to what they deem is best, but these awards don’t really matter. A Grammy doesn’t matter, but the Grammys do. It doesn’t really matter whom the awards go to, only that we can continue to argue about them-that really matters.


January 26, 2014