There once was a belief that if you worked hard, “ate your vitamins, said your prayers” (or something like that), then you could achieve your dreams. But then somewhere along the way, ‘working hard’ got replaced with ‘showing up.’ And ‘doing your best’ was replaced with ‘At least you tried’, and we started handing out participation trophies, so everyone felt like a winner. A subtle sentiment to send to children but a far more devastating impression left on adults.
On Sunday, February 10th, it was the celebration of music: The 61st Annual Recording Arts Grammy Awards. Now personally, as a fan of every genre of music and a big fan of award shows, I love seeing people honored for their hard work. They put their creativity out there and it was received well and that’s something that should be celebrated. I also enjoy that there are typically no ties. There’s 5 or more nominees, 1 winner and 4 or more
losers… just nominees. That’s true fairness. That’s reality. Some people win, some people lose.
But what Drake said during his acceptance speech was right: A Grammy is just an opinion. “If people are spending money to see your shows or buy your music, you’ve already won.” And that’s true.
But then why have the ceremony at all?
Why call them “The Best” anything if it doesn’t matter.
Because they do. The Grammy is a big freakin’ deal. Possibly too much so.
Especially when the tide on the night can shift based on one single person’s decisions.
Too Far Gone
Last year, the Grammy’s faced a unique and deserved criticism: That it didn’t feature, nominate or select any female performers for any trophies. This was compounded when Grammy President Neil Portnow was asked about the criticism and told female artists to “Step up their game”. Increasing the level of vitriol towards him and the ceremony, especially because it was a legitimate criticism. (I would argue Kesha’s “Rainbow” was the best album I’d heard by a male or female artist all last year.)
So what did they do? They went postal. They had Alicia Keys as the host (who did a pretty good job actually.) Almost 80% of the performers were female (including a strange Motown tribute led by…J.Lo???), and the bulk of the winners were also female including Cardi B who won Best Rap Album on an album she didn’t primarily write herself. This was extreme. This was the people in charge going full tilt towards correcting the mistake of the previous year, and I suppose it would’ve been fine if it weren’t so blatantly obvious. Even to the point of having Portnow openly admit it on stage.
So the Grammy’s essentially became a participation award ceremony, a ‘Thanks-for-being-here’ giveaway, a ‘Sorry-about-the-patriarchy’ handout. So much so that even really deserving artists were completely missing from nominations. I love Cardi and I celebrated her album, but there’s no way it would’ve, nor could’ve won over Logic’s Young Sinatra IV, Nas’s “Nasir”, Eminem’s “Kamikaze” or even Nicki Minaj’s “Queen”, all of which were mysteriously missing from the nominee pool despite all being released during the eligibility period.
And yeah, women have worked incredibly hard in the music industry. They have endured tremendous challenges, and dealt with unimaginable crap for decades , so I guess you could say this was long overdue. Just don’t call it fair and certainly don’t call it equal. True equality doesn’t happen just because you throw it up there and make it so. It happens because everyone knows it should.
How It’s Done
Take the WWE for instance. Anyone who’s been a fan of professional wrestling from the early days up to about 2015 saw women’s matches as gimmicks. They had to mud wrestle, or have bra and panties matches or sometimes bra and pantie matches in the mud and swimsuit competitions (also sometimes in the mud). Until finally, we the collective universe said enough was enough. We trended #GiveDivasAChance for 3 whole days on Twitter and it was returned. Today, the women’s division in WWE is the strongest and most entertaining it’s ever been. And that’s not because the big bosses at the top forced it on to us, but because the women worked for it. They earned it. They ate their vitamins and said their prayers and they achieved.
The same could be done for female musicians. True equality. True meritocracy, but it doesn’t come because the Grammy’s threw a pity party, but because it should be, about damn time.