By Ryan Stephens
Music constantly evolves with culture, mixing, melding, and molding a whole new expression of identity from several others. The Grammys were created to categorize the best from these expressions, highlighting unique gems from genres. However, this year, the Grammys poorly represented the music genre as a whole. Artists were snubbed in the rap genre, the show glorified already over-hyped music, and finally, smaller musicians were edged out in favor of the much more accessible flavors of music.
Opinions differ over every category of the awards – some want their favorite band to win, others want a lesser known one to take the award – however there seems to be a common consensus among most of the viewers that Kendrick Lamar, a popular rapper behind the critically acclaimed album, Good Kid, M.A.D.D City, had been cut down in all categories relating to rap. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the men that created one of the most popular songs of 2013, Thrift Shop, cleaned shop in the rap categories, leaving Macklemore with four awards.
Viewers had high expectations for Lamar; after all, Swimming Pools received much praise from critics and average listeners. The fact that Macklemore won every award in the rap genre left fans of Lamar disappointed. While Lamar does offer praise for Macklemore and Macklemore presents himself as a humble victor, giving some kind words to Lamar, The Heist, Macklemore’s debut album, carried too much weight to be ignored.
The Heist dominated radio stations, is a driving force for many advertising campaigns, and even an anthem for social progress for the LGBT community. Compare that to Swimming Pools which seemed liked a typical party song (an assumption that ignores much of the lyrics and their context within the song) and very few songs off of Good Kid, M.A.D.D City had as much recognition as Swimming Pools or any of the many hit singles off of The Heist. Unfortunately, Macklemore’s victories reinforce the attitude that the facade of musical progression ends up covering the popularity contest that dwells beneath the skin.
Far past the rap genre, that same popularity contest exists and seems to have an even stronger influence. Most notably, Best Rock Performance felt this effect, with Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive taking the award. However, many fans of the rock genre have objections to Imagine Dragons even being classified as rock. David Bowie and Queens of the Stone Age are established rock icons and were also up for nomination. Imagine Dragons comes off far more as a pop group or at the very most, indie rock. The Alternative Rock categories presented a more accurate description of what genre Imagine Dragons falls under, however a possible reason for why they might have been placed into the Rock categories was because of a heavyweight.
After Vampire Weekend released their spectacular album, Modern Vampires of The City, it seemed obvious that they would clear out the Alternative Rock category. Even with the success Imagine Dragons saw with Night Visions, Modern Vampires of The City had too much sway over the Alternative Rock category. So it seems likely that the organizers for the Grammys may have placed Imagine Dragons in a category where it had a far better chance.
Of course, Imagine Dragons were not the only ones whose fame edged out smaller musicians deserving of a Grammy. Daft Punk owned the Grammys, earning a Grammy for every nomination, and having one of the most heavily praised performances of the night. The Dance category seemed like a category where Daft Punk had full reign, however, the contenders for the title deserved it far more. Disclosure’s heavily lauded Settle was among the other nominees and their public exposure could be best described as minimal. Get Lucky, Daft Punk’s only single off of Random Access Memories, gave Daft Punk an identity within the mainstream. So when they won, it just came off as contrary to the message the Grammys should be promoting. The Grammys, no matter how mainstream, should be serving lesser known artists to the mainstream audiences they cater to. By giving an award to Daft Punk, the Grammys just perpetuate an attitude of self-congratulations that only restricts music from evolving.
So with the 2014 Grammys come and gone, the mainstream catering remains the same. Daft Punk and Macklemore high five their way to the bank and lesser acts like Disclosure live in squalor. For musical evolution, it was the best of shows, and it was the worst of shows. It promotes acts that deserve praise but not attention and pushes aside groups that need both. Ultimately, it presented an enjoyable show that only reinforces the emptiness of the genre itself.