FEATURE: Golden Hour? Did the Grammys Get Everything Right This Year?




Golden Hour?

IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves was a big winner at this year’s Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Ray Davidson for GQ

Did the Grammys Get Everything Right This Year?


TOMORROW will be good as I wanted to raise something...


 IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves delivering an acceptance speech at this year’s Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

very interesting and, in fact, this topic is one that has been on my mind. Last night was the Grammys in the U.S. and it is definitely a step forward in terms of gender and genre. One of the biggest issues with the award ceremony, in past years, has been the male domination and a commercial leaning. In fact, when Bruno Mars swept the board in 2018 for his album, 24K Magic, there were some raised eyebrows. That album is not especially strong and it definitely has that chart-pandering sound. There is nothing particular challenging to be found and it was another year for men taking most of the big awards. There was call for change and it meant, when the nominations were announced for this year’s ceremony, there was some relief. Although female artists like Cardi B and Kacey Musgraves were announced, that was not a guarantee there would be recognised and actually win an award! I was a bit nervous I’d turn on the news yesterday morning to see it was the same old selection and issues. Luckily, when it came to handing out awards, female talent was being honoured! The award show gave prizes to H.E.R. (Best R&B Album for H.E.R.), Kacey Musgraves (Best Country Album for Golden Hour) and Best New Artist to Dua Lipa. Cardi B won Best Rap album for Invasion of Privacy and it was good to see a lot of talented women getting what they deserve.

Not only were women walking away with awards but there was greater inclusion regarding black women. Although there were some award categories that could have gone a different way, few had any complaints when the likes of Cardi B and Ariana Grande (she won the Best Pop Vocal for Sweetener) walked away with prizes. There was no sense of the Grammys making concessions and fitting women in just to silence people: they were genuinely making an effort and there has been some big steps. I was thrilled there was greater balance and I hope this continues next year. The BRIT Awards are very soon and it will be a chance to see if the biggest award show in the British calendar can match the Americans. The Grammys have always been slighted because of the narrow focus and the fact they tend to favour mainstream stuff and do not really consider women. There was no way they could have repeated previous years and allowed things to go on as they have for so long! Has everything been solved, though?! Many might say it is only a music award show and who really cares if it ticks all the boxes and is perfect? The Grammys will never be flawless but I think it has made some big improvements since last year. It is good to see big artists like Cardi B not being overshadowed and Kacey Musgraves’ win was a big nod.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Although Drake did not perform at the Grammys, he collected the award for Best Rap Song (for God’s Plan)/PHOTO CREDIT: Trace TV

Country music has been attacked because it does not play as many women on the radio as men – the fact Musgraves won Album of the Year and Best Country Album should, I hope, open a conversation in music regarding the way women in Country are treated. It was a good night regarding female inclusion and recognising genres like Country but, in some ways, there were needless issues. USA Today observed that there were problems when it came to interrupting speeches but, despite everything, they were on the up:

 “The most jarring slash was to Drake's speech. For the Grammys, Drake's presence was a major win, his first appearance at the awards since 2013, after years of criticizing the show's decision to not air most of its rap awards on TV.

And yet, when the rapper made a surprise appearance to accept the Grammy for best rap song ("God's Plan"), the show went to commercial in the middle of his speech, just as the rapper could be heard starting another sentence.

And the Grammys were also missing another major name, Ariana Grande, after a PR nightmare in which the show's producer Ken Ehrlich implied in an interview that Grande couldn't pull her act together fast enough to perform. Cue Grande claiming Ehrlich was "lying" and that the Grammys wouldn't let her perform the songs she wanted, which, if true, is quite a bad look for a show trying to do right by its female nominees this year.

And yet, beyond the failures of the telecast, the 2019 Grammys were actually a major improvement from last year's controversial ceremony, with female artists seeming to dominate the microphone as the night's performers and winners -- 31 women won across 38 categories, a sizable uptick from 2018, in which only 17 of the 86 prizes were won by female artist -- and with Glover, despite his absence, making history for hip-hop artists with his wins”.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande was a notable omission at the Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Craig McDean for Vogue

It is rather jarring seeing an artist make a speech and, when they have not been talking for that long, have it interrupted and washed over. The Guardian took up the baton and dissected Drake’s acceptance speech – what there was of it!

And then Drake made his acceptance speech for best rap song. His initial point was that big musical awards ceremonies such as the Grammys are essentially meaningless, because there’s a weekly musical awards ceremony, voted for by the public, called the charts. This is not totally accurate: in awarding album of the year to Musgraves’ Golden Hour, which triumphed over commercial behemoths including Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys and Drake’s own middling Scorpion, the Grammys performed one of the few genuinely useful functions a musical award ceremony can perform, shining the spotlight on an artistically brilliant album that has thus far underperformed commercially”.

You can, as the article explained, talk about Kacey Musgraves and the fact her album, Golden Hour, matches genres together and is an exceptional work yet, in commercial terms, did not shift as many copies as some of her Pop peers. Maybe that is a problem with the American Country radio network and how little airplay they are giving to female artists.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Alicia Keys hosted the 2019 Grammys and was hugely impressive/PHOTO CREDIT: Jaclyn Martinez/Courtesy of AK Worldwide, Inc

One can dispute some of what Drake said above but, regarding another point he made, there can be few disputes:

But Drake’s second point, about the Grammys’ attitude to artists of colour, was more difficult to dispute. The last 12 months have seen hip-hop continue a commercial domination of music that began in 2017 when Nielsen Soundscan figures from the US suggested eight of the 10 most listened to artists in the world were rappers. But you only had to look at the Grammy awards to realise that hip-hop artists have largely given up on the prospect of seeing themselves properly represented at the ceremony: Jay-Z and Beyoncé didn’t bother to turn up to collect their award; Childish Gambino was absent; Kendrick Lamar and Drake both turned down an invitation to perform. It looked suspiciously as if some of the biggest stars in the world were boycotting what’s supposed to be the biggest award ceremony in its field”.

There does seem to be this problem, still, with race and it is rather worrying. Sure, Cardi B was a big winner at the Grammys but the fact Drake and Kendrick Lamar both failed to perform suggests there are concerns. Hip-Hop dominates and has overtaken Pop but Rap is almost on the backbench. Some of its biggest names forfeited performing and there are a lot of things the Grammys needs to work on. This article counts all the slightly embarrassing moments at the Grammys.  

Ariana Grande did not attend because of a dispute regarding her performance; there was this feeling that, whilst many women won awards on the night, it was all a bit too little and too late. Big names bowing out and not performing cast a shadow and it seems like the Grammys has taken two steps forward and one back. I am relieved there is a move towards gender equality and recognising genres like Hip-Hop. I am not saying Pop should not be overlooked but it is nice to see this development and change. The fact speeches were cut and there were these niggles cannot be overlooked. I do think music ceremonies are important because they celebrate great work and can actually boost the profile of artists. Think about the new fans that will flock Kacey Musgraves’ way and the fact radio stations will need to retune their dials! Maybe the show was not essential viewing – it was very long and few awards were handed out on T.V. – but there were definite positives.

I feel the Grammys still holds weight and needs to exist. The same can be said for the BRIT Awards and the Mercury Prize. If the Grammys can address the issues this year and ensure that 2020’s ceremony has greater sight and gives more time to Rap – creating few disputes regarding performances – then it can grow and be seen as worthy. There are many who think it has never really been a guide regarding good music and a bit of an indulgent addition to the year. I would argue against this and go back to my point regarding the winners and the fact awareness will be raised – their sales will climb and it is a good chance for people to discover their music. There were some drawbacks and downfalls at this year’s Grammys but, compared to 2018, there were...

SOME enormous leaps.