The 56th annual Grammy Awards that held at the beginning of this week on Sunday 26 of January 2014 has left a lot of people angry and feeling cheated. One of the biggest losses of the night was Kendrick Lamar losing “Best Rap Album” to Macklemore seeing as a lot of people, Macklemore included, thought the win should have gone to Kendrick Lamar.
Outspoken soul singer India Arie took to her Tumblr page to express her thoughts on the Grammys and the way things have been set up in Awards in terms of culture and commercialization. You can read up her full open letter here.
India Arie definitely makes some solid points. The music industry and the rewards/awards that artists get seem to be more about what can sell than what should sell. Awards are being based on popularity and sales than quality and we all see that. The complaints about the Grammys and commercialization are no longer new and seem just a repetition of words by now. So why do the black artists keep going back to get dirt poured over their works?
India Arie stated in her letter: “The American Music Awards is a show that awards sales and popularity – the #Grammys are SAID to be about the music. If the hip hop community voted on hip hop – r&b COMMUNITY the same – same for each category – we’d see winners that reflect the MUSIC ITSELF. We all know that’s just not the way it goes. NOW the BIGGER losers are ALL of black music. Where was the black music community represented in last night’s #Grammy show? Performers and Winners (or not) … Where were the black artists?”
I think the better question to ask is why are black artists always looking for validation from white music industry executives? Granted, it is natural that black artists will want to be acknowledged for their artistic achievement as any other black person does in their respective lines of work and professions, but can we all agree that the Grammy Awards is NOT IN ANY WAY what it used to be? Can we all agree that even though tons of white people listen to “black music” they will be more inclined to award white artists first?
Maynard James Keenan of Tool stated in 2002 “I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.” 12 years down the line and the Grammys is still unimproved.
To be candid, there is a deteriorating value of music as an art in general. Music is becoming more and more solely about the entertainment than the lyrical content or message. Now we have Beyonce (who is supposed to be a “Queen”) grinding and being extremely sexually provocative on stage. This is something that Miley Cyrus, a 21 year old, did and was called out for – now a mother and wife does it? There is also the fact that “Hip Hop” is now more “Hip” with black rappers focusing on “my b*tch bad”, “Versace, Versace, Versace”, “bend it over and shake that ass”, “my b*tch look like a bag of money”, drugs, the glorification of how many diamond chains and big cars they own – and yet they want to be awarded for songs like that. Let’s not talk about that because that is a whole other thing.
So it is a bit understandable that as a result of this negative images and generalization of “black music”, real rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Nas may be punished and go unrecognized. But why do we have to wait for the Grammys to give a validation of Kendrick Lamar’s success? Or any black person’s success (seeing as that was the message behind India Arie’s letter). I read in a comment section of one blog that black artists should try boycotting the Grammys – it seems extreme but really is not far from the truth. The past few Grammys have seen the absence of a lot of black artists. Notable this year was Rihanna and Kanye West. Rihanna even took to her Instagram page to give a #throwbackthursday of her at the Grammys’ only she wasn’t there so it looked a bit like this:
BET Awards, The Soul Train Awards and more are avenues for black artistes to be appreciated too, so why are there so many fixations on the Grammys? In 2011Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was described as the most critically acclaimed album of the year and a career-defining record. Yet there was no mention of it in the 54th Grammy Awards. Can we all just forget the Grammys? It’s ridiculous how year after year we continue to speak on this.
You have to love Kanye West’s candidness. Watch this quick video of him speaking on awards not too long after he ran on stage to dispute Taylor Swifts’ Award that he thought should have gone to Beyonce. It speaks volumes of truth:
Can we all agree that the Grammy Awards is just not that important anymore? The Grammys may never be forward-thinking and open to new age music. The Grammys may always choose familiarity over risks when it comes to picking winners. We may never know who the voters are for the Grammy Awards and why they keep making such obviously insulting and wrong choices. I think it is time for artists – whether white or black – to realize this. It is time to stop seeking validation from people that favour extreme commercialization.
Take a minute or two to read the comments following the open letter from India Arie. They speak louder than the letter itself. And drop your comments below to let us know your thoughts.by