Do the Grammy Awards Represent the Best in Music Today?

Do the Grammy Awards Represent the Best in Music Today?

Find all our Student Opinion questions here.

Did you watch the Grammy Awards on Sunday? Were any of your favorite artists nominated? Did any of them win? When you consider the list of winners — such as Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X — do you think their wins will bring them greater respect among fans or within the music industry? Will it lead to more people listening to their music or going to their concerts?

In short, what, if anything, do you think a Grammy Award bestows upon its winner? You may want to peruse last year’s winners as well as the 2020 winners as you consider these questions.

Before Sunday night’s award ceremony, Jon Caramanica wrote about how many younger artists have been suspicious of the music industry’s “biggest night” for years. He also explained that new allegations of misconduct at the Recording Academy, which oversees the Grammy Awards, made by Deborah Dugan, the organization’s chief executive, seemed to confirm the worst suspicions. He wrote:

Now, on the eve of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, the legitimacy of the organization that hands out the trophies is in full-fledged crisis. Given Dugan’s allegations of behind-the-scenes misbehavior, it has to be asked: Can the Grammys be trusted?

Or perhaps: Have they ever been trustworthy? The question long predates the current scandal, and what Dugan unearthed seems only to confirm longstanding critiques of the awards show. The Grammys’ claim to authority has been brittle for some time, in large part because it has failed to keep up with the ways pop is evolving. During the 2010s, an era in which hip-hop and its influence have been not just ascendant but dominant, only one nonwhite artist, Bruno Mars, won the Grammy for album of the year; the results in the song and record of the year categories are only slightly better. The academy’s resistance feels willful and hopelessly prejudiced.

Superstars of this generation are taking notice, and taking umbrage. In 2016, Frank Ocean declined to submit his album “Blonde” for Grammy consideration, telling The New York Times that the Grammy process “doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.” Last year, Drake diminished the importance of winning awards during his acceptance speech for best rap song, and in 2017, expressed bafflement at winning that same prize for “Hotline Bling,” which was, he pointed out, “not a rap song.” Kanye West — who has won 21 Grammys, but never in a major category — has long made the Grammys a target of his ire.

However, after the awards ceremony, Mr. Caramanica noted that perhaps this year’s Grammys represented a change:

But this year may well be remembered as one of severe, jolting transition for the Grammys, and not just because of the behind-the-scenes conflagration about conflicts of interest, irregularities in the nomination process, sexual harassment and more that overshadowed the event. Instead, Sunday night’s show featured several impressive moments spotlighting some of pop music’s youngest innovators: Tyler, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Rosalía. And while there were plenty of the usual serious-as-a-snore Grammy performances, they faded from memory thanks to the night’s cleverest and hungriest attendees.

That there’s room for those performers on the show now is, in part, a positive side effect of the institution’s own necrosis. The Grammys have systematically alienated a whole generation or two of hip-hop and pop stars, many of the most crucial musicians of the last two decades. Think about everyone who was not in attendance this year: Drake, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar. What’s left? The veterans who are a part of the show’s firmament, but more intriguingly, the new kids on the block.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Do you think the Recording Academy “has failed to keep up with the ways pop is evolving”? Do you think this year’s award ceremony marks a change? Give a few examples that support your stance. What do you think the Grammy Awards represent today? Is it popularity, innovation, musicianship, some combination of these or something else?

  • Who are your favorite musical artists? What are your favorite songs, albums and music videos? Have they won or been nominated for Grammys? Does this matter to you? Do you think it matters to the artists, or to most fans? Explain.

  • The article mentions how the artists Frank Ocean, Drake and Kanye West have been critical of the Grammy Awards. Do their statements affect the way you think about the Grammy Awards? Do you think the decision to, say, not submit an album for Grammy consideration offers a solution to problems outlined in the article? Explain.

  • The article’s writer argues, “Broadly speaking, nonwhite artists, female artists, and artists who come from the worlds of hip-hop and R&B are consistently marginalized, honored in genre categories but shut out in the four major categories (album, song and record of the year, and best new artist). Add it all up, and you get impending irrelevance.” What are your thoughts on this stance on the Grammy Awards becoming irrelevant and the causes for it?

  • What are your thoughts on other entertainment industry awards like the Golden Globes and the Oscars? Are they on par, in your opinion, with the Grammy Awards when it comes to recognizing achievement in their artistic fields? Give a few examples to support your stance.

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.