The Grammys are the bishops of the Billboard gods, cementing the public’s oftentimes misguided pop music sensibilities into credible dogma. So that’s why it’s important that the 2016 Grammy nominations are out, as we shall discuss what’s orthodox, and what’s blasphemy.
Here is an awards body that awarded Artist of the Year to Maroon 5 (aka The Worst Band in the Universe) over Kanye West (aka Music Genius, obviously); considered “All About that Bass” and “Call Me Maybe” as not mere earworms, but some of the best songs of the year; and noted that a Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album, which is basically an unapologetic ploy for radio airplay and money, contains some of the strongest compilations of songs from an artist (well, “artist”) that year.
That said, I sort of bet that every year the Grammy nominations are announced, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (i.e., Oscars voting body) sighs in relief, as it’s probably more validation of their superior taste over other entertainment bodies that have no idea what they’re doing. The Academy, for example, would never nominate Michael Bay for Best Director just because his movie grossed a bajillion dollars, in the same way that the Grammys would nominate a Black Eyed Peas album after they’ve been on the Billboard charts long enough for everyone to get sick of them. Surely, the Academy is full of old, white men who love movies about other white men (who are preferably artistic, disillusioned, and have nagging or unobtainable women in their lives), but hey, at least they can make up their own minds.
Not to say that the Grammys is a broken institution. In fact, if you look at the winners, and the winners only, it’s actually an institution that is very much in tact, rewarding recent talents like Adele, Sam Smith, Beyonce, Dixie Chicks, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and so on, proving its mainstream legitimacy. There is no reason to hate on a person who tells you that The Godfather is his favorite movie, and there is certainly no reason to hate on an awards body that believes that “Rolling in the Deep” was the best song of 2011.
Better yet, though, the Grammys have a history of being, well, unexpectedly ballsy. Here’s an awards show that isn’t afraid to give the big awards to the likes of Beck and Arcade Fire. It’s hard to shit on an awards show that gives one to the little people more than once a while. And it’s hard to argue that an awards is too mainstream when no one can understand their cut-off date. And most of all, it’s hard to argue that an award sucks when it strives to seek a balance between the Billboard charts and some angsty teenager’s iPod circa 2005.
So perhaps, the Grammys are the only awards show that really tries.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that the nominations themselves tend to feel lazy every year, or akin to one of the less prestigious music awards (e.g., American Music Awards). Of course, 2014, which makes up a better part of these nominations, was one of the worst years for music in recent memory. So what’s there isn’t really the Grammys’ fault. Because they’re going to have to nominate Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” and some forgettable Florence + the Machines songs, as there is nothing else to really nominate. Except, well–
While Taylor Swift’s 1989 album made its permanent mark on pop music and pop culture, she also successfully transformed from Blond Taylor to Brunette Taylor. And we wonder if Blond Taylor has always secretly wanted to be Brunette Taylor, or if all the girls who wore t-shirts and sang along to “You Belong with Me” at their local strip mall Target now wear short skirts, or are they still stuck being Blond Taylor, wearing t-shirts, and shopping at Target with their mothers, while Taylor Swift left them in the dust?
Save for two great, and three good songs on 1989, though, Swift doesn’t depart from what the kind of music she knows how to make too well, except this time, it’s correctly labeled pop instead of falsely labeled country. As it stands, “Blank Space” is the album’s strongest effort–musically and lyrically–acting as a tongue-in-cheek catalyst of self-awareness that the album’s lead single “Shake It Off” should’ve, could’ve been.
In times like these, of course you can count on the Grammys to provide Swift a counterpoint–Kendrick Lamar. Lamar’s gritty, yet liberating album, To Pimp a Butterfly is the opposite of the kind of work that a white, blond, pretty, privileged millennial–reducing Swift to those terms hurt, but still–would write, sing, and record. The Grammys have previously awarded Lamar’s beautifully bombastic single, “i” last year, but the rest of the album is just as much of an awards threat as it’s one of the most intelligent albums in recent years.
Swift, a self-proclaimed fan of Lamar, got to collaborate with him on her “Bad Blood” remix, with Lamar delivering some of the worst lines from a talented featured guest rapper on a pop song since Kanye West in Katy Perry’s “E.T.” But the “Bad Blood” remix was nominated; alas, Lamar is still not really part of Swift’s squad, though imagine a world where Kendrick Lamar drinks wine, bakes cookies, and talks about boys with Selena Gomez, Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss, and Hailee Steinfeld, because really, what a world that would be.
I’m digressing, but I think what I’m trying to say is that the Grammys try, and sometimes they are lazy at trying, and sometimes they try hard, and sometimes they even fail, but they still try. And where’s Colbie Caillat in all of this? Probably eating a vegan pizza somewhere, the same vegan pizza Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar will eat at some Grammy after party, as they clink their Grammys–a moment that will surely be memorialized on Taylor Swift’s Instagram forever.