FEATURE: On Another Planet! Why Bruno Mars’ Sweep of the Grammys Proves the Award Ceremony Is a Farce



On Another Planet!


 IN THIS PHOTO: Bruno Mars with his multitude of Grammys/PHOTO CREDITReuters/Carlo Allegri

Why Bruno Mars’ Sweep of the Grammys Proves the Award Ceremony Is a Farce


I think it was The Simpsons who made a joke about the Grammys


IN THIS PHOTO: Janelle Monáe (during her speech at the Grammy Awards)/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

back in the 1990s. They took a dig at it – claiming it to be the biggest award show farce out there – and, as you’d expect, showed clairvoyance and sense. That is not a shock: the show has made bold predictions that have come true (like Donald Trump becoming President, alarmingly!). I was pumped and excited about this year’s Grammy Awards for two reasons: Hip-Hop and Rap looked like it could take a share of the prizes; women were being recognised (not as much as they should, mind!). It seemed greater equality and parity could come in. An award show that is defined by its recognition of mainstream male artists would, I hoped, buck the trend and reward quality over popularity. Although Kendrick Lamar walked away with six (lesser) Grammys: Bruno Mars made headlines and walked away with the most awards. Many assumed Lamar would win the big prize for his album, DAMN. Instead; Mars claimed the Album of the Year for 24K Magic. The album won Record of the Year and one of its songs, That’s What I Like, won Song of the Year. Kendrick Lamar won Best Rap Album - but one wonders why he was snubbed and overlooked regarding DAMN. When the nominations were announced, and artists like Lamar, Jay-Z and SZA nominated for awards; the fact they went away with fewer than predicted makes me wonder whether the Grammy Awards will ever change!

I was hopeful mainstream categories would recognise Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z. I am glad Lamar won a smattering of awards - he was favourite to win in the album category. I am not against Bruno Mars but I feel 24K Magic was less well-received than DAMN.; it is not as strong and is more commercial than Lamar’s magnum opus. I wonder, then, whether the judges are falling back on old ways! There were few female winners on the night - Alessia Cara won Best New Artist – and, at an occasion where attendees wore a white rose to support causes tackling sexism and inequality; the fact few females were recognised calls into questions the ethics and validity of the Grammy Awards. I am not suggesting a Kendrick Lamar/Jay-Z victory, coupled with big female praise, would change the music world overnight. If you are judging on quality then I have to ask why Bruno Mars’ latest album swept the board. Those victories symbolise a triumph of commercial and ‘fun’ over more political, serious music. There are some great songs on 24K Magic but it is nowhere near as strong as DAMN. One cannot claim racism – as Bruno Mars is black – but an ignorance and rejection of Rap/Hip-Hop’s deserved place in the mainstream is alarming. I hope people look at last night’s results and questions whether any real development has taken place...


IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar (performing on the night)/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

I could give Bruno Mars his dues if his album was the superior offering – it would not matter what genre it was if it deserved prizes. The fact the judges have opted for a weaker, more commercial effort – than Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z – brings into question how valid the Grammy Awards are at a time when they need to show wisdom. Kesha’s powerful rendition of Praying wowed the crowds and brought the subject of abuse (she survived abuse herself) into focus. A night that highlighted abuse and imbalance; the way women are overlooked and ignored – to omit them from the winners’ enclosure is laced with irony. Lorde, SZA; Lady Gaga and Kesha all missed out; it was a boys-dominated night and one that put Pop/R&B at the forefront. There were some deserved winners on the night. Aside from Lamar claiming five awards; artists like Foo Fighters and Leonard Cohen scooped prizes (Best Rock song (for Run) and Best Rock Performance (You Want It Darker) respectively); there were wins for War on Drugs and LCD Soundsystem. Ed Sheeran scooped a few awards – including Best Pop Album and Best Pop Solo Performance – and there were some powerful, memorable moments. Janelle Monáe delivered a timely and heartfelt speech that addressed sexism and equality: the fact the time for pay gaps and lack of awareness is through. That need to end the silence and see diversity reign seemed bitterly ironic considering who won the major awards at the Grammys.

It is the biggest music award show on the planet and should, one would imagine, set an example to everyone else out there. I am a fan of Jay-Z and feel his exposing, personal; raw and open album, 4:44, warranted a few gongs at the very least – he went home empty-handed. He was nominated for eight awards and, the fact he did not win any of them, makes me wonder whether there will ever be that balance of quality-diversity at the ceremony. In order for the music industry to progress; to find that equality it sorely needs – we need to tackle areas like the Grammys and ask why they insist on proffering something easy-going and accessible. If they ignore albums/artists challenging and angry; they are sending out a bad message and proving themselves to be afraid and unwilling to bend. It was not a surprise Kendrick Lamar did well in Rap-specific categories – he was expected to do so. When I reacted to the nominations list (last year); I genuinely felt we would see female winners and a triumphant night for Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. The fact Alessia Cara was the only female winner - in terms of the main awards; a few were handed out in other categories - on the night seems like gender tokenism: ignoring the wealth of other female artists that were nominated in favour of their male counterparts. All the white roses and thought-provoking speeches seemed almost hollow when you heard the winners announced during the Grammys.

Going forward...the judges need to consider how they decide winners and what message they sent to the world of music. I am sure Bruno Mars worked hard to create 24K Magic but his massive success has highlighted bigger problems at the Grammy Awards: how few women are being nominated/honoured; Pop, R&B and more commercial sounds are still favoured when it comes to the main honours. I know award ceremonies are not the biggest and most important things in the music business: the hard work the artists put out to the people is. These ceremonies reward the finest artists and, bar a few alternatives; few award shows are taking risks and recognising those artists who go beyond the ordinary. I was agog when Jay-Z left award-less; perplexed Kendrick Lamar didn’t receive more awards than he did – it was a night that promised genuine change and progression but remained rooted, predictable and lacking. I hope 2019 sees more female nominated/winning; forgoing the temptation to give the big awards out to Pop/R&B chart acts; ensure quality is a bigger factor than any form of popularity and commercialism. The best takeaways from this year’s Grammy Awards were the white rose-wearing artists and those performers who delivered such stirring and impassioned messages – most of them were female. Everyone wants to see change and progression. The only way we can do that is to show greater equality and common sense at our award shows. The Grammy Awards should have been a night that redressed imbalance and recognised artists/genres overlooked in past years. As it is; the abiding impression is of an award ceremony that could have done something extraordinary but, instead…


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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