Music is Life

Beyoncé Snubbed by Adele

I’ve been sitting on this subject for a little bit; I’m generally not quick to make judgements. After reading what many people had to say about Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” losing Album of the Year to Adele’s “25” I thought that I had arrived at a conclusion, namely, that Adele had won the award per the Grammy organization’s mission statement. I had thought that awards were mostly given out by popularity defined by sales along with a combination of member votes however after doing a small amount of research on the Grammy Recording Academy I found that I was quite wrong:

The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, WITHOUT REGARD TO ALBUM SALES OR CHART POSITION.*1

If we maintain a sense of objectivity then we have to conclude that both Beyoncé’s and Adele’s albums displayed high marks in the three categories mentioned. Assigning a quantitive value to these—to determine who had the greater score—is troublesome as we begin to venture into subjective territory and this is where we must leave the outcome in the dictates of competition, that is, there can only be one winner.

One of the chief complaints I noted was that Lemonade supposedly had a bigger impact than 25 did. How do we measure that? Another complaint was the race card which is equally difficult to parse out. According to they think that age has more to do with it, the voting members are “aging, white baby boomers” and thus vote in a more conservative manner than the young who are more apt to embrace current cultural trends. While that may be true the award is still given out properly in accordance with the organization’s guidelines.

Looking at the award’s history and practice however shows that the caveat “without regard to albums sales or chart position” is really null. Personally Beyoncé’s and Adele’s albums had little impact on me personally and artistically. When 25 came out I noticed that myself and many of my friends (who work in the industry and academia) thought that it was lackluster and jejune. It was expertly sung, produced, and recorded yet I found it sterile and lacking the emotional and artistic depth of Adele’s previous album. I later found out that Damon Albarn had been tapped to produce some tracks for that record yet nothing came of it. Was he not suited for her particular style? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. As far as Lemonade goes that album had little impact on me for no great reason at all, it just didn’t resonate in me for whatever reason. That’s ok, not every piece of art will be appreciated by every person.

The albums that impact me the most personally and artistically will probably never win Album of the Year in the Grammy’s because they don’t tend to be worldwide best-sellers. I have no problem with that at all. Some of these albums include Lateralis, Deloused in the Comatorium, Zzzooorrrccchhh, Bitte Orca, Patagonian Rats, I could go on. These are all fantastic albums (to me, obviously) but they’ll probably never come close to outselling the likes of Jack Ü or Justin Bieber (whose music I enjoy just as well). What is it that I’m getting at you may ask, it’s this:

there seems to be a general axiom that the more popular something is the more “lowest common denominator” it is.

Though there are always exceptions and outliers in general if you want to appeal to a mass amount of people you must pander to the most basic of tastes and aesthetics. Looking at the Grammy controversy this way it’s easy to see why 25 won and why it deserves to win which is really good news for the Beyhive because it means that Lemonade isn’t watered down, it’s concentrated for maximum effect.