Each Grammy season, millions of viewers watch awards get handed out for the best album and best songs of the year. Awards shows are frequently plagued with scandals, like last year’s #OscarsSoWhite, which criticized the show for exclusively nominating white people in all the major categories. The furor surrounding this year’s Grammys was hardly different, featuring yet another Beyonce loss, but reflects a deeper seated bias within the show. Watchers should not take the Grammys seriously as an awards show, only as a spectacle.
The Grammys rarely award Album of the Year to the album that critics believe deserve this honor. This year, Adele’s “25” went home with Album of the Year, despite critics rating it significantly lower than Beyonce’s “Lemonade”. Metacritic rates “25” as a 75, while “Lemonade” earns a 92. 2017 wasn’t even the year where the Grammys departed furthest from the critics. Mumford and Sons’ 2013 win of best album for “Babel” is the most egregious example in recent memory. “Babel” only received a 63 on Metacritic, light-years away from the 92 that Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” earned and still considerably less than the 84 and 83 that “El Camino” and “Blunderbuss” earned, respectively.
Sometimes the academy agrees with the critics, but it seems to be influenced more by genre than merit. In 2014’s showdown between two critically acclaimed albums, Daft Punk’s excellent “Random Access Memories” walked away with the award over Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”. The next year, in another even matchup, Beck’s “Morning Phase” won over Beyonce’s self-titled album. But the thing with these Album of the Year awards is that they’re earned seemingly at random. Whether the Grammys will award the album of the year to an acclaimed indie artist like Beck or Arcade Fire or a corporate powerhouse like Taylor Swift or Mumford and Sons is largely unpredictable. In fact, seemingly the only factor that causes critically-acclaimed albums to win Grammys is when they’re up against the work of black artists.
This year artists are finally starting to speak out against the Grammys. Frank Ocean withheld his album “Blonde” from award consideration this year. “Blonde”, like “Channel Orange”, was raved about by critics and was considered the best album of the year by many publications. It was clear that Ocean withheld his album because he didn’t respect the Grammys after his loss to “Babel”, but when producer Ken Ehrlich and David Wild criticized Ocean in an interview, saying that he was scared of the big stage, Frank clearly laid out his thoughts in a scathing Tumblr post. Ocean called the 2016 Album of the Year award, which was awarded to Taylor Swift’s “1989” over Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” “one of the most ‘faulty’ TV moments I’ve seen” and accused the Grammys of “cultural bias.” Fellow artists Solange Knowles and Kanye West echoed Ocean’s criticism.
The Grammys aren’t a serious awards show, and they haven’t been for years. Grammy awards come with a level of prestige that is completely undeserved. They shouldn’t be taken seriously as anything but a spectacle. If we refuse to enable the Grammys, they will be forced to change.
Chastain-Howley is a rhetoric and writing junior from Dallas.