Grammy awards misrepresent popular music

Nish Asokan, columnist

The Grammys never have been and never will be perfect. That kind of expectation is impossible. I do, however, think that the Grammys, representing a music award of the highest caliber, should elevate true artistry.

I’d like to begin with the Record of the Year category. This is one of the night’s bigger awards and supposedly to honor artistry and technical proficiency, without regard to sales or chart position.

Now my real problem in this category is not who won. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” won and arguably deserved it. My problem is actually with the other songs and artists in the category, namely: Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”

All three of the songs that I listed are widely popular with each of them averaging close to half a billion views on the Internet. But popularity is not what the Record of the Year category is supposed to represent.

These songs are entertaining but they don’t display technical proficiency or artistic achievement. They are simplistic and catchy but neither innovative nor worth remembering.

The Recording Academy is comprised of 12,000 voting members. Unfortunately, many of these voters vote in categories they are unfamiliar with or perhaps do not even know. The consequence is that fame trumps quality.

To combat this there needs to be some way to restrict voters to categories that they know best. The Grammys include categories for rock, rap, metal, country, and reggae, among others but there are very few people, if any, familiar with all these genres of music.

Another artist, Iggy Azalea, nominated for Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Rap Album also might represent a problem for the Grammys. People use Azalea to criticize the Grammys and their underrepresentation of black artists.

Why is Azalea the focal point of this criticism? It is likely because Azalea is seen as an inauthentic Australian artist who puts on a southern very Atlanta-influenced rap persona. To some she is the musical equivalent of blackface, re-appropriating culture without appreciating its roots.

Despite my bashing of the Grammys they did still manage to put on a good series of performances. My personal favorites were Kanye’s performance of Only One, a touching tribute to his mother, and his performance alongside Rihanna and Paul McCartney for Four Five Seconds.

I, however, don’t want the Grammys to just become a compilation of performances. I believe that there is still hope for the Grammys. For this reason I plead that the Grammys try to hold themselves to a higher standard in terms of selection of artistry and equality.