THE SANTA CLARA
February 12, 2014
Last Sunday marked the 57th annual Grammy Awards, and just as life beholds two absolute certainties in death and taxes, so it is with the much maligned music awards. The first certainty is the slew of anti-Grammy Facebook statuses angrily conjured up by “true music fans” forever at odds with the award show’s selection process. The second certainty is that Kanye West will do something stupid.
This year, in a bout reminiscent of his meltdown at the 2009 Video Music Awards, when he took the stage and mic from a flustered Taylor Swift, he stormed onto the stage after the Album of the Year award was given to Beck’s “Morning Phase,” only to visibly think twice and return to his seat leaving viewers puzzled. Was this stunt an homage to his prior incident? Was he truly so steamed at the decision that he would make the same boneheaded move twice?
Kanye answered these questions after the show, saying, “If the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us … Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, (real artists are) tired of it.” This statement is so confusing on so many levels that when I first heard it, I thought good ol’ Ye might still have been, as he puts it, “playing with us.”
Those who are familiar with Beck’s music know that for over 20 years, he has been putting out albums so sporadic in sound and unique in scope that some (mainly me) have questioned whether or not he’s actually human. If an alien like Beck doesn’t represent “artistry” or “real artists,” then I’m not sure who would.
The true irony is that Kanye’s statement is otherwise quite apt; the Grammys are notoriously commercial, only picking music that appeals to the uneducated masses.
Oh wait, no, they totally don’t do that. If these criticisms liberally thrown at the Grammys for awarding watered-down mainstream junk are true, then why did “Morning Phase,” which was heavily outsold by all of its Album of the Year counterparts, win the award? Why did Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” take home the award in 2011 over pop culture darlings Lady Gaga and Katy Perry? Why did Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters” beat out Kanye’s own “Graduation” in 2008, despite selling less than 3 percent of the copies that “Graduation” did?
Sure, there have been many albums of questionable quality picking up awards left and right. And yes, one quick look at the list of artists who have gone Grammy-less (Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Tupac and Janis Joplin, to name a few) is enough to go and rummage around for a torch and pitchfork. But for every head-scratcher, I guarantee you that upon looking through the dozens of Grammy categories, you will find several more pieces of music that are absolutely deserving of the shiny golden gramophone.
Because at the end of the day, the Grammy Awards are chosen by human beings like you and me (but not Beck). The awards are not the arbiter of what constitutes good music, nor are they the result of tone deaf fools scouring the tops of the Billboard charts for what’s hot. They are simply a reflection of the different tastes of a group of people. If you can’t get down with that, I hear there’s this cool show about zombies that also airs on Sunday nights.
Tyler Brown is a junior economics major.