At this year’s Grammys, over the course of a over three-plus-hour broadcast, a mere eight awards were presented (most were announced before the actual awards show). The Grammy Awards, then, have mostly become a steady stream of performances.
A couple of the night’s best performances came in the form of tributes. At the top of this group was a re-united Eagles (Jackson Browne stood in for Glenn Frey) performing “Take it Easy,” and Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., and Bonnie Raitt performing their take on B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.”
And then there was Kendrick Lamar: easily the best of the night with his intense renditions of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright,” the performance for which featured a jailhouse and a chain gang. As the performance unfolded, you could sense uneasiness among the audience due to the intensity and weight of what Lamar was singing about in his music. This is how Lamar performs, but it was heavy for the awards show setting. It felt like a truly honest moment of expression within a hollow, disconnected evening.
The reason for this hollow feeling was not only the other performances, but also some of the awards selections. In terms of performances, this mainly came from the disingenuous feeling that came from the likes of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd, who all came off as snobby and arrogant through their performances. The other downer came via Lady Gaga’s David Bowie tribute. By no means do I hate Lady Gaga, but her performance ended up seeming more like a parody video, more a joke than a proper, moving tribute.
In terms of awards, I don’t know if we need a “Grammys so white” hashtag like the Oscars, but there is definitely still a long way to go; look no further than the album of the year award that was given to Taylor Swift.
I know we shouldn’t be surprised that the Grammy voting committee selected an album about #boytroubles and #squadgoals over Lamar’s social commentary and his dissection of a toxic industry. I guess we should view the fact that it was even nominated in the category as a sign of progress for rap music, often marginalized to its separate category, but it was a very obvious misstep for the award show.
However, the icing on the cake came when, after winning the award, Swift gave a speech about her own personal accomplishments and how you shouldn’t let other people say they made you successful. The ironic thing about it was that she had a team of 10 producers and writers that worked on her album standing behind her. This again relates back to the hollow and disconnected feeling that lay over the whole event. Though Swift plays the main role in the creation of her music, it is selfish and arrogant for her to claim she created her success alone.
At this point, I almost feel it is wrong to call the Grammys an award show anymore. With the measly number of awards actually given out on-air and the lack of time given to winners to actually thank the people they want to thank, the Grammys has become more of a one-night music festival than anything else. The number of performances has skyrocketed over recent years, and perhaps it’d be best to scale back the number and increase the amount of awards given. Even the most diehard music fan will have trouble watching for a whole three-and-a-half hours, and by making better music selections and trimming the fat from the show, the Grammys could easily become a smaller night that would not only benefit those present, but also the audience at home.