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Grammy review

February 15, 2019

This past Sunday, the 61st Grammy Awards ceremony took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, and once again, they were a let down.

However, for me personally, I wasn’t really let down following this year’s ceremony. This might be due to my reaction to last year’s Grammys, when I was furious over the utter burial of Kendrick Lamar and JAY-Z by Bruno Mars. Mars took home all six Gramophones he was nominated for, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

I think the reason I was really let down last year was because I was invested in the albums and songs that were up for big awards, especially Album of the Year, where I was hoping that Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. would win only for it be upstaged by Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. Even though I’m still upset that Kendrick didn’t win, I still thought Mars’ record deserved to be mentioned in the conversation for Album of the Year. In fact, I thought all five albums nominated were either good or great.

The same cannot be said about the 2019 Grammys, where I thought that most of the albums up for the Recording Academy’s biggest prize did not deserve to be up for this kind of recognition.

I have a small feeling within my gut that says the Academy bumped the nominations for each general field award from five to eight in order to cover up for the lack of quality work that was on display in the Album of the Year category. I might just be a conspiracy theorist in this regard, but it is hard to look at every nominee and say “This album deserves to be recognized as the best album in all of music during late 2017 and most of 2018.”

Since I am not an avid follower of country music or folk music, I cannot really comment on whether or not Kacey Musgraves or Brandi Carlile deserved to be mentioned in the category, so I am not going to go after either of those two. But since I do follow a pop, R&B, and hip hop, I can tell you that some albums that weren’t nominated felt like highway robbery while some of the albums that got the nod were laughable.

I was a bit confused as to why there were no true blue pop albums up for Album of the Year. Considering the Academy’s infatuation with Taylor Swift and the popularity of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, I expected that one of those two artists would have had their name on the list.

R&B had two nominees, which I was surprised by. Janelle Monáe received a nice nod for her album Dirty Computer, which was my favorite album out of the bunch, However, it caught me off guard that H.E.R’s self-titled EP was up for this award considering that she hasn’t garnered a ton of buzz off that project.

Those two genres didn’t really make me mad though because the R&B albums nominated were actually pretty solid.

Hip hop though. Hip hop really disappointed me.

In a year where Kanye West had his hand in three spectacular albums, Denzel Curry dropped TA1300, J. Cole released KOD and Travis Scott came out with Astroworld, the voters decided to nominate four pop rap albums, emphasis on the pop. Instead of nominating albums that pushed the craft of hip hop further, we received four radio-friendly albums that were compromises for kids who want to listen to rap music in the car with their parents.

These albums were Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, Kendrick Lamar/TDE’s Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By, Post Malone’s beerbongs and bentleys and, inexplicably, Drake’s Scorpion.

While I can say that there were some aspects from three of the nominated albums, I can’t put them in a class of great hip-hop albums.

Invasion of Privacy and beerbongs and bentleys had a decent amount of versatility and some good pop rap tracks from Cardi and Post respectively, but at the end of the day, both albums use the same trap rap formula that has dominated pop rap for the past couple years. Black Panther has some good musical elements rooted in Africa (a nice fit since the Black Panther movie was set in Africa), but having so many artists on the record led to sonic inconsistency due to all of the genres covered in the track listing. Scorpion is the least deserving album out of the eight nominees because it was just a bloated 25-track mess that was a product of Drake trying to rack up as many streams as possible by focusing on quantity over quality.

I also think it is astonishing that out of these four rap records that were nominated for Album of the Year, only one of them (Invasion of Privacy) was worthy of being nominated for Rap Album of the Year

That is absurd. If you are an album up for the biggest Grammy you could win, the least you could do is be nominated for the album of the year in your own genre.

After looking through all of the nominees for Album of the Year and seeing a somewhat pathetic lot of projects, I just shrugged my shoulders and said “I really don’t care who wins anymore.” When I heard Alicia Keys announced Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves as the winner, I didn’t cheer and I didn’t complain. I turned off the TV and internally said, “I guess it’s better than Drake.”

The Grammys always have the opportunity to do something great and champion an amazing album or song as the best in the industry but they always botch the landing. For that, I can’t really say that the ceremony validates an artist as being “the best”.

Despite every criticism I have about the Grammys and how they operate, I know that once December rolls around and the nominees for the 2020 Grammys are posted online, I’ll roll my eyes and begrudgingly say, “Fine. I’ll watch it again.”

Here are some things I liked about the Grammys

  • Anderson .Paak took home a Grammy for one of my favorite rap songs of the year “Bubblin”
  • Childish Gambino became the first rapper to win either Record of the Year or Song of the Year, taking home both awards for “This Is America”
  • Daniel Caesar won Best R&B Performance for “Best Part” with H.E.R.
  • Jennifer Lopez’s Mo-Town tribute performance was stellar and she hasn’t lost a step
  • The Shawn Mendes and Miley Cyrus collaboration went over pretty well and they had a solid amount of chemistry
  • Lady Gaga’s performance of “Shallow” was excellent.
  • Brandi Carlile’s performance of “The Joke” was stunning and passionate.
  • Janelle Monáe’s mix of Dirty Computer tracks was flawless and the choreography was amazing.

 

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