The Oscars, The Grammys, and Meaningless Award Shows
It is easy to deduce how the process of selecting recipients of Oscars is flawed. Now, The Arrowhead is dissecting the Grammys, and more importantly what little it takes to be a winner.
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Oscar season and Grammy season are both over. They are both fun spectacles, however, they are almost meaningless. Out of thousands of films, and millions of songs produced every year, it is a ridiculous notion that a single academy could somehow objectively decide which are the best. It just cannot happen.
The Oscars, at least, find themselves in the position of sifting through a plethora of amazing work, and having to make impossible distinctions between nominees. It’s akin to the college admissions process at top schools. One Amherst admissions officer said in an interview, “it is making minute distinctions among extraordinarily talented kids. There are times when I am not sure why I put my hand up (to admit a student) or fail to put my hand up. I’m kind of going with my gut here.”
This process is obviously flawed. However, at least the Oscars are doing this–at least they are picking their winners from a pool of highly qualified films. The nominees and winners are always really good films, at the bare minimum. Any nominee that would have won the coveted best picture award this year, for example, would be deserving.
Unfortunately, the Grammys don’t even meet this standard flawed process of picking winners. One can at least award the Grammys the fact that there were some good winners this year (Coloring Book, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Blackstar, Culcha Vulcha) but those are in their respective niche categories. An examination of the nominees for Song of the Year is utterly disheartening. For example, “Work” by Rihanna and Drake is a well-produced, catchy dancehall track, but is severely lacking in substance and not at all deserving of a nomination. “7 Years” is a sentimental, nostalgic track that serves its purpose a lot better than Ed Sheeran’s latest, “Castle on the Hill,” but still–song of the year? “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots is another well-executed, nostalgic pop song, and Twenty One Pilots’ most bearable listen, but it’s still a far reach to even nominate it for a song of the year.
These are all good songs, but to label them as possible “best songs” of the year is crazy. It’s is literal lunacy. Radiohead, Bon Iver, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Chance the Rapper all released new material this year, and yet Twenty One Pilots has a nomination for Best Record of the Year while none of these artists do. “Ultralight Beam” featured arguably Chance the Rapper’s best verse to date, complete with his trademark humor and biblical allusions, and a soaring chorus backing–it was a shining light of positivity, unity, and grace in a divided time for the nation. Bowie’s “Blackstar” was hauntingly cryptic and beautiful. It was existentialism on Bowie’s terms, within the realm of exploratory jazz. Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” was a pop song about nostalgia. It was a good song, but simply did not match the level of progressiveness, creativity, or excellence that many other artists had reached in 2016. This poses a serious question: what criteria are the Grammys using?
The Grammys do have a harder job than the Oscars. Feature films and even short films require heaps of funding and experience to make happen, as opposed to the minimal funding required to produce a record in some cases. The advent of the internet, along with bandcamp, has expanded and diversified the music industry to previously unforeseen lengths, so the Grammys has a lot more material to sift through. Still, the Grammys are doing a deplorable job. The Oscars can engage in nothing more than their “college admissions” type process, and no more is expected of them. But the Grammys need to do better.