Elaborate stage performances and heartfelt speeches have defined another awards season as the bests of 2016 were chosen in 2017. However, I feel the celebration of the arts seems to pit fans against each other instead of bringing home a message of unity.
Art by its very definition is the application of creative skill and imagination; to be appreciated for its beauty and emotional power. Why do people watch art ranked and awarded every year?
On Sunday night, the Academy Awards closed out its season with a cloud of confusion as “Moonlight” was revealed as best picture after being mixed up with “La La Land.” The most anticipated award of the night suddenly felt irrelevant to viewers as the controversy became more important than the actual award.
A parallel can be seen in the Grammys. The buzz of music’s biggest night centered around Adele’s “25” against Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” for album of the year. Adele raved about the importance of an album like “Lemonade” after she won the honor. In her speech, she described Beyoncé and her album “Lemonade” as “monumental,” “soul-bearing” and “empowering.” Then, Adele broke her award in half.
The finales of both the Oscars and the Grammy Awards bewildered viewers with their convoluted conclusions. The question of who deserves the top prize is not as important as what it would mean for progress in the industry.
“25” is a contemporary and elegant bestseller while “Lemonade” is risky and provoking. When Adele swept the night, traditionalism scored another point in a year of revolutionaries. If Beyonce had won, it would have been a recognition of her message about intersectional feminism apparent throughout “Lemonade.”
“The Grammy effect” continues to be impactful showing that the winners do matter. Digital sales of songs performed during the Grammys increased by 140 percent the week after the show, according to Billboard. Adele’s “25,” in particular, jumped up in sales by 137 percent since the Grammys aired, according to Nielsen music.
Each year, the Grammys follows the same unmistakable trend that has overtaken the album of the year rank. Taylor Swift won instead of Kendrick Lamar in 2016, Beck won instead of Beyoncé in 2015, Daft Punk won instead of Kendrick Lamar in 2014 and Mumford & Sons won instead of Frank Ocean in 2013.
Disregarding the talent of Adele, Taylor Swift or any Grammy-winning artist is besides the point. It’s the Recording Academy constantly giving special attention to music that feels more timeless than timely.
Black versus white is a simple distinction of what is at stake during award season. The fans may feel subconscious pressure to pick between who is better or more deserving. Picking a more traditional artist like Adele feels innately unprogressive because Beyonce’s music is its polar opposite. Instead of sharing the unique achievement in each piece of music, a single album is chosen to represent the whole year.
Music award shows could potentially reveal the hidden jewels of the year, but instead they often recognize those who already receive millions in sales and are tirelessly played on the radio.
Award season hopes to recognize the arts by bringing the industry together in one room and celebrating the year’s “greatest hits.” Ultimately, it creates more division than progress. Music award shows, in particular, seem to produce the same outcome: alienating fans and ultimately failing to recognize so much great work created each year.
Music doesn’t belong to one type of narrative or genre–it belongs to everyone. Exclusion through its biggest celebration makes the awards more irrelevant each year.