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Friday, May 24, 2019

Columns

Grammy Awards don’t honor true talent


As a rule, societies take it upon themselves to award valorous works and efforts with commendation — it’s just something that we do. Some of these instances are justifiable. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners are an excellent example of this. They were given the award for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women’s rights. Organizations have demonstrated that recognition can sometimes be fitting, even necessary, as a reminder that good works really are being done. But most aren’t.

The Grammy Awards are in this pile.

The problem begins with the selection process. The Grammy Foundation chooses its nominees solely off of record sales and radio playability. On paper the two may fit in neatly with quality, but real life demonstrates otherwise. In addition to pulling the plug on an ocean of otherwise formidable contenders, the system rewards monotony and complacency. What isn’t broken may not be pretty, but if the masses are drowning in it our nation’s music business provides little incentive to fix it.

Adherence to this complacency is what increases their cash flow. The judges aren’t morons — they’re aware that there is no way to quantify beauty or innovation. Music generates its appeal from the fact that it is undefinable. The lack of a constant formula, a stoned in doctrine for separating the good from the not so great, is what makes for the universal appeal of noise. Because there are neither laws nor parameters, the organization creates its own.

And this is where the Grammys fall short. Rather than being a celebration of the various works created year in and year out by artists across the country, the applause goes to whoever fits that particular year’s criteria. Quality is not an option because it can’t afford to be.

At some point it becomes a number game. More so than exposure or recognition, the country’s contemporary music scene has become a figurehead for heavy profit. When the purpose of creating a piece transitions from making a representative work of art to “what will get me the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time,” it’s obvious that the ends have been compromised by the means.

It’s hard to find a better representation of the music industry as a business than the Grammys — it’s even harder to find an instance of unnecessary commendation as a whole.

There are people analyzing, containing and fighting quantifiable subjects, things that can be touched and felt and logically rationalized on a grander scale: the woman who identifies the contagious disease, the child who helps the elderly across the road and the man who pulls babies from trees. There are people doing important things on a daily basis, entirely worthy of praise for the sake of their doing.

But the way our recognition system works, everyone is snubbed.

Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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