15 Views

Grammys 2017: Judges keep on defying the critics

Last week the elusive Frank Ocean took to his Tumblr account to criticise the Grammys for both the seeming exclusion of black artists, similar to the Oscars in previous years, and simply for a belief that they have, in his and many others’ opinion, wrongly awarded previous artists over others deemed more worthy.

He acknowledged the potential reading that this was an act of sour grapes for his own snubbing in 2013 and a soft-spot over the technical difficulties he experienced in his performance that same year, but he does also rightfully present a tricky and potentially Sisyphean issue that faces the Grammys and the industry in general at the moment. He cited Taylor Swifts ‘1989’ winning over Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece as “hands down one of the most faulty TV moments” that he’s seen.

In light of this year’s outcome at the Grammys last week, it’s hard to not to see the outcome of this year’s best album prize as another such example.

Adele’s 25 is undoubtedly a popular, well-praised and hugely successful album, yet many, including Adele herself, saw this as an injustice in comparison to the immense presence of Beyoncé’s Lemonade as potentially the most powerful and important albums of the year.

Equally a lot of the music community protested this result online on twitter; asking how could an album so in touch with the social and political issues of the time, as well as an album that saw a such a public figure as Beyoncé open the iron clad gates to her personal life unlike ever before, miss out on the top prize?

But this debate also calls in to question the very reasons why an album might be deemed, ‘the best’, makes us revaluate the very definition. Is being ‘the best’ what the most people think is the best?

This leads us to an almost Marxist take on the debate, using the famous German socialist philosopher’s overarching ideas of conflict or contrast between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

If popular music is, unlike classical concert music of old, music for the masses, it begs the question as to whether what is deemed as most popular is the most important?

If we look for the exact literature of the Best Album award, the Grammys website describes their aim to “honour artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.”

It seems to me that the most intriguing and pertinent part of this quote is in the final clause, where they describe the disregarding of album sales or economic success.

I certainly feel like this has got lost a little over the years of this award – the record of recent winners shows a trend of number one albums winning over critically revered albums. Frank Ocean saw this coming before the outcome of this year.

Naturally, all the albums nominated this year and over the years are all of extreme economic success – this muddies the waters a little, as we are only talking about relative degrees of success as opposed to pitting a chart topper against a left field, independently released.

This is particularly true for 1989 and Hello, both spawning endless memes, vines, remixes and weeks at the chart top spot.

Both albums also won by beating incredibly important albums by incredibly important black artists. As impartial as I’d like to remain, I wouldn’t be alone in thinking that both ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ and ‘Lemonade’ are the superior albums of each year.

Both are astounding opuses of cultural and social prominence, defining their careers and controlling a mass-cultural conversation.

But in saying this do we risk denying the mass culture of what they believe is best. By neglecting popularity do we risk returning to a previous elitist view of ‘good’ music? Do we risk turning this in to a new sub-brand high culture?

It seems clear to me that, in a time where the black lives matter movement is one of the most pressing issues for western society, we should surely be recognising, in the highest form, the works of art that have taken this issue head on – it’s not like they haven’t also been sonically deeply complex and a genre-pushing vision.

If it took the late, great David Bowie until his death to win a Grammy, what does that say about the future? How long will we have to wait for great art to be accepted into mainstream recognition?

Perhaps Bowie had to be widely understood as a great artist before he could be recognised with an award as one.

Ocean, as could be expected, provided the ultimate moment of clarity in his blog post, asserting with pride and conviction, “Blonde sold a million plus without a label, that’s successful. I am young, black, gifted and independent. that’s my tribute.” In achieving independent, economic and critical success, it feels like Frank Ocean has already won.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review

Georgia Grace - February 23, 2018

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia came to the Theatre Royal Brighton this week with a trio of classic ballet performances to impress a range of audiences.…

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock
Science, Science & Technology
30 views
Science, Science & Technology
30 views

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone ahead with a plan to build a giant clock to promote long term thinking. The clock's design should allow it to…

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain
Science, Science & Technology
79 views
Science, Science & Technology
79 views

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

If you're madly in love, I'd like to ask you to take a moment to consider what exactly is happening inside your brain. Love is a many-chemical…

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy
Science, Science & Technology
48 views
Science, Science & Technology
48 views

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could become a defining feature in humanity's exploration of space, but this impressive technical feat opens up a new frontier of…

Should the monarchy be abolished?
News
23 views
News
23 views

Should the monarchy be abolished?

Will Cronk - February 23, 2018

YES William Cronk Since the time of Alfred the Great, this country has had a monarch of some form or another. The monarchy has provided stability and…

News, Podcast
28 views

News Round Up: UCU strike updates, tuition fees and more

William Singh - February 23, 2018

In this news round up of the week, Will and Deniz catch you up on everything going on around campus. Thanks for listening and tune in next…

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr
Features, Top Stories
23 views
Features, Top Stories
23 views

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr

Devin Thomas - February 23, 2018

The Badger Features Team interviewed Sussex’s Yasin Koc about his work on the psychological factors behind Grindr. He posits that use of the app is associated with…

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls
Arts, Film & Theatre
26 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
26 views

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls

Sophie Coppenhall - February 22, 2018

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MwnpSEzprQ[/embedyt] This week, Sophie our film editor, reviews season one of Derry Girls. Have you seen it? What did you think? Leave us a comment on…

Arts, Film & Theatre
40 views

Krater’s Valentine’s Day Special review

Daniel Green - February 21, 2018

Love was in the air at a Valentine’s special of Krater Comedy Club last Wednesday and, despite the pouring rain outside, Komedia was packed full of people…

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule
Campus News, News
42 views
Campus News, News
42 views

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule

William Singh - February 21, 2018

University of Sussex staff are hosting a full slate of events on strike days, including talks, teach-ins, and even a day to bring along your puppers. Members…

Exploring Mumbai Street Food
Lifestyle
40 views
Lifestyle
40 views

Exploring Mumbai Street Food

Louisa Streeting - February 21, 2018

Mumbai is a place that assaults the senses; an array of smells you’ve never smelt before, vibrant colours, and constant noises from the surge of tourists and…

Comment, Opinion
44 views

Comment Cast: Misogyny In Hollywood

Will Cronk - February 21, 2018

In the is episode, Will and Sophie discuss misogyny in film and tv. For more, pick up a badger around campus or read it online. Tune in…

Students need to support the UCU strike
Comment, Opinion
52 views
Comment, Opinion
52 views

Students need to support the UCU strike

Johnbosco Nwogbo - February 20, 2018

The question of whether or not the current UCU strike is justified is an easily settled one, if one took a broad view. According to the Joseph…

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?
Features, Top Stories
50 views
Features, Top Stories
50 views

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?

Roisin McCormack - February 20, 2018

As it reaches a century since the defining moments of women’s suffrage, Roisin McCormack looks into how much things have really changed. Is a celebration of the…

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)

Gabriel Ross - February 20, 2018

During a 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, when asked whether he is going to take some time off, Adam Sandler promptly replies, “I don’t really wanna have…

News
53 views

Live: Students’ Union decides on UCU strike backing

William Singh - February 19, 2018

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000
Campus News, News
69 views
Campus News, News
69 views

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000

Jordan Wright - February 19, 2018

On Monday 19th February, the Students’ Union Council will vote on whether or not to support the national Univerity  and College Union (UCU) strike action that is…

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review
Arts, Music
38 views
Arts, Music
38 views

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review

Matthew Nicholls - February 19, 2018

Three years after their last release, The Wombats are back with their long awaited fourth album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’. Since 'Glitterbug' reached number 5…

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse
Artist Focus, Arts
51 views
Artist Focus, Arts
51 views

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse

Louisa Hunt - February 19, 2018

Ella Barkhouse is a second-year Brighton student, studying Fine Art: Critical Practice course. Her work ranges across all sorts of media, from some more traditional writing, drawing…

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February
Books
77 views
Books
77 views

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February

Shiri Reuben - February 19, 2018

  Throughout the month of February, LGBT History Month aims to promote tolerance and spread awareness of the historical and present-day prejudices faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual…