I can't get no satisfaction at the Grammys

It’s rare for people to focus on the positive and leave it at that — the 66th Annual Grammy Awards were no exception. With sublime performances from Miley Cyrus and Billie Eilish, a dominating sweep by women in every major award category and powerful comebacks from veteran artists Billy Joel and Joni Mitchell, some people have claimed that this ceremony eclipses any in recent memory. 

And yet, fans and artists still found ways to throw shade. 

For starters, let’s talk Taylor Swift. It’s impossible not to, and that’s our fault. We The People propel her to megastardom — but still choose to tear her down ridiculously and debate over the most infinitesimal things. 

Case in point: Fans are outraged that while accepting her award for Album of the Year — her history-making fourth win — Swift brought Lana Del Rey on stage, who was in the running, and “ignored” award presenter Celine Dion. They scream that she’s rude and insensitive. They also scream that Swift has too many Grammys, that she shouldn’t be considered for the award any longer to make room for rising artists who “deserve” a chance to win. But last I checked, awards are earned — not deserved — and thinking so is as fallacious as it is pointless to discuss. These awards are given based on “quality,” and nominees meet unknown, unquantifiable standards. In the absence of numbers, “deserve” loses all its argumentative force. 

Three words: haters gonna hate. And how could they not? I may not be a Swiftie, but I recommend that everyone watch only the first ten minutes of the Eras Tour movie — not for pleasure, but for education. The woman controls crowds with the mere pointing of a finger. She is a force to be reckoned with, and anyone who denies that is matter-of-factly unable to appreciate greatness.

But these are insubstantial trifles. Critiques not of the Grammys themselves but little nitpickings. The real stuff is more important: why the artists — the people whose opinion matters more than anyone else's concerning music — are disappointed with the Recording Academy.  

Historically, rap artists feel slighted by award outcomes. This year, Jay-Z won the Dr. Dre Global Impact award, pointing out during his acceptance speech that his wife Beyoncé “has more Grammys than anyone and never won album of the year. So even by your own metrics, that doesn’t work.” 

While I respect the sentiment, the reality is more complex. Beyoncé has won a slew of awards for various songs, but an album is not just singles stacked together; it is a whole greater than the sum of its parts. And if her already record-breaking Grammy win total isn’t enough, what would another win, albeit in a major category, really do for her? Satisfaction is hard to come by at such high levels of excellence. She is Beyoncé, another undeniable cultural event and icon. Why do Jay-Z and Beyoncé even care at this point? What recognition can they receive that they can’t already give to themselves?

Rap Album of the Year was another bone of contention, with many feeling that Travis Scott was snubbed (he thinks so, too: ad-libbing “they slept on me 10 times!” during his performance of “FE!N.”) Killer Mike, a rapper few members of our generation have even heard of, took home the award instead. His last Grammy win was 21 years ago, for a record he made with Outkast — yes, 2003 “Hey Ya” Outkast. 

Some will say that Scott was snubbed because the voters don’t understand his music, and therefore can’t appreciate it. That they’re old-heads unwilling to recognize talent — experimental and weird talent, but talent nonetheless — in favor of music they identify with. But these are the same people who nominate the music to begin with. A win is just a superficial, subjective accident of the competition model, one that doesn’t really make sense where the art of music is concerned.

I say it’s best to care less about the award itself, and appreciate a nomination. A nomination is not the Grammy equivalent of a participation award. Everyone invited is excellent, and no outstanding artist has ever been snubbed a nomination, as far as I know. Take the nomination and run.  

Something else to chew on: every time you complain about losing, you are implicitly hating on someone else for winning. Again — what’s the point? 

Drake, who did not attend this year's ceremony despite receiving four nominations, has been extremely outspoken in the past about his disregard for the Grammys. In a 2019 acceptance speech for “God’s Plan,” he assured other artists that “if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you. You already won.”

That is something I can stand behind. Subjective losers are not objective losers — they’re not losers at all. If you forget that, you start caring too much about what other people think. But alas, these are artists we’re talking about… emotions run high.


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