For years, the Grammy Awards have come under criticism for rewarding artists and producers who are predictable, but surprisingly this year’s nominees list taps into the artists’ popularity quotient. The recording industry’s most recognized award has often gone to artists whose work has toed an invisible, yet familiar line in terms of musical style and production values. Winning an award in any category is not just a feather in the artist’s cap; it represents the door to an exclusive popularity club where the longevity of an artist’s career may be assured. The year 2014 seems to be a watershed year with the awards selecting several bands and artists whose work would not normally be seen on a nominees list. Sara Bareilles, a five-time nominee and Daft Punk—Grammy darlings since their win in 2007—are not unexpected nominees in several categories including Record of the Year and Album of the Year. However, 2014 has turned up some exciting new artists including teenage sensation Lorde, hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, R&B songwriter Robin Thicke and the duo of rapper Macklemore and DJ Ryan Lewis.
Artists who have been nominated or won Grammy Awards in recent years have often been the industry’s safe choices. The awards are decided by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), most of whom are artists, producers and recording engineers. The awards have faced significant criticism for their focus on commercially viable artists rather than musicians whose songs have earned critical or popular acclaim. In contrast, the 2014 Grammy Awards have successfully tapped into a large popularity quotient by including social media sensation (Lorde) and alternative rock band (Imagine Dragons) in the nominee list. These artists have have swept up almost every popular choice award based on fan votes. In days gone by, artists would have their albums gain popularity after their nominations for a Grammy had been announced. However, nominations such as Lorde’s Royals, nominated for Record of the Year, have been the cynosure of the music world long before they earned their time at the Grammys. Darren Levin, editor-in-chief of Australian music website FasterLouder.com attributed Royals success to the fact that the song “connected because people liked it. It wasn’t rammed down their throat 10 times a day on commercial radio.”
Through a 55-year history, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has been subject to severe criticism by musicians, producers and even its own nominees and winners. Metal singer-songwriter, Maynard James Keenan, whose band Tool won in 1998 and 2002 under the category for Best Metal Performance, opined that the awards were “nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. It is the music business celebrating itself.” After a significant revamp of its categories and voting mechanism in 2011, the academy seems to have stepped up to answer some of the criticism by nominating artists whose music is relevant, popular and boasts of considerable artistic merit. That this music award is one of the world’s greatest platforms for established and upcoming artists has never been in question. But the Grammy Awards nominee list for 2014 has refreshingly also tapped into a fan-generated popularity quotient in the selection of artists. The official CBS broadcast of the Grammy Awards begins at 8 P.M. Eastern Time, today the 26th of January.
Editorial By Grace Stephen