As much as they’d like to think they are, The Grammys are not an accurate measure of modern music taste. Perhaps in the days before downloads, streaming and YouTube, the annual ceremony was something of a taste-maker (or at least a taste-reflector), but those days are very much on the wane. However this year, for the first time in a long while, The Grammys did manage to make a statement about today’s music scene – just not the one they intended.
Inadvertently, The Grammys 2018 exposed the music-consuming public’s utter exasperation. By putting on a show centring on mostly male and often bland performances coupled with mostly male and often bland winners, The Grammys inspired a mass moaning at the failure of the industry to both recognise and celebrate real musical innovation.
From the off, The Grammys were never going to be a showstopper. A quick scan of the nominees revealed an uninspiring and predictable list, outdone by the nominees at this year’s BRITs – and if you’re being outdone by one of the naffest awards shows in the world, you know something’s gone wrong. But even with already low expectations, The Grammys were a total snore, celebrating some of the stalest music of the last year. And as usual, the ceremony was very much a two-faced affair, one taking a look at the last 12 months, while the other looked further back, for some reason offering airtime to artists that haven’t been relevant in decades. From U2 to Sting and Shaggy, a dozen names could have been substituted for the likes of Lorde, Lana Del Rey or Jay-Z, all artists on the cutting edge of their respective genres.
This year, The Grammys were more conservative than ever, something that didn’t go unnoticed. Scores of music fans took to Twitter to express annoyance at the ceremony’s failure to catch up with modern trends, with most of the awards going to safe choices like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Even Bon Iver was riled, tweeting his disbelief at Mars’ win for Album of the Year. What became clear over the course of the night was that music fans are no longer willing to be fed the same old rubbish. An evening of ballads (even Mars complained of the amount during one of many acceptance speeches) and big wins for industry faves doesn’t make for a particularly thrilling spectacle.
As well as a bit of innovation, music fans expect far more diversity in their nominees. In a year when The Grammy’s paid lip-service to the #MeToo movement, men still dominated the night, both in performances and winners. In response to the backlash, Grammy President Neil Portnow told women they needed to ‘step up’ – a comment indicative of the ceremony’s outdated attitude to diversity. When women did perform, they were often supporting a male musician or lumped together in a nonsensical choir. But in many cases, they weren’t performing at all. A case in point is Lorde, the only nominee for Album Of The Year not to do so. Allegedly she was offered a spot in an ensemble, but turned it down. When the likes of Elton John and DJ Khaled were given airtime, there’s no excuse for shunning the only woman up for the top prize.
Though not the mirror to the zeitgeist they’d like to be, The Grammys were – unintentionally – the most relevant they’ve been in years. But putting on a stinker of a show that awarded only the tiredest industry darlings, they’ve managed to spark a mini revolt. Hopefully next year, the committee will take note (as The BRITs did after a similar outcry last year), and broaden their horizons. Because as much as The Grammys shouldn’t matter, they remain the biggest award show in music, able to kickstart careers and champion real innovation. If their powers can be harnessed for good, we might finally see some real change in an outdated music industry still hellbent on rewarding mediocrity.