Nirav Desai, staff writer
Despite supplying many encouraging firsts that point toward progress in the music industry, last night’s Grammys simultaneously produced disappointment as viewers were reminded of how far The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has yet to go in the awarding of the show’s biggest prizes.
The 58th installment of the annual awards made history prior to even being broadcast, as viewers in the Pacific time zone were treated to a live broadcast for the first time. This change was long overdue, especially after social media users in other parts of the country spoiled previous years’ awards for music fans who actually live in the city where the show is physically held.
Taylor Swift then etched her name into Grammys lore by becoming the first female two-time winner of the Album of the Year award (Fearless and 1989), a feat she pridefully mentioned in her victory speech before not-so-subtly taking aim at Kanye West’s latest derogatory comments about her.
“As the first woman to win album of the year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” Swift, who also won Best Music Video for “Bad Blood,” said.
Though West recently claimed he is the source of Swift’s fame in the triumph of self-appreciation that is The Life of Pablo, it is unlikely that he will attempt to purposely reignite his self-inflicted feud with Swift after witnessing the confident 26-year-old’s talent for classy comebacks. As for Swift, her latest wins only solidify her status as one of the most successful artists of the 21st century.
Swift shared the award for Best Music Video with the song’s featured artist, Kendrick Lamar. Lamar entered the show with 11 nominations, the second-highest mark of all time, but walked away with only five Grammys. Aside from the shared win with Swift, all four of Lamar’s other awards, Best Rap Performance (“Alright”), Best Rap Song (“Alright”), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (“These Walls”) and Best Rap Album (To Pimp a Butterfly), were obviously in the rap category, and only in the rap category.
The problem lies within Lamar’s six defeats; the Recording Academy rejected his critically acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly in each of its non-rap category nominations. This was a phenomenal year for the music industry, but the drowning out of the best rap album in recent history felt like an unsuccessful referendum on the viability of hip-hop as a major award-winning genre.
When one takes into account the fact that Lamar’s album has a Metacritic rating of 96 (the site’s fourth-highest album rating of all time), the notion that black America has widely embraced the album as a sort of rallying cry and the bitter memory of Macklemore winning Best Rap Album over Lamar in 2013, then this year’s Grammys suddenly seem to confirm the idea that while black hip hop artists will always generate income for the music industry, the outcome of these efforts will almost never result in big awards. This chilling reality becomes almost painful after listening to Lamar predict this kind of artistic exploitation through his narrative in To Pimp a Butterfly and his overwhelming performance during the middle portion of the Grammys.
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars took home the Record of the Year award for the understandably overplayed “Uptown Funk,” and while relatively few students at Beverly have lived in a city that even has an uptown, it doesn’t take a musical historian to realize that many aspects of the neo-Motown track have a heavy black influence. Ronson knows this and even gave a shout-out to George Clinton, one of the pioneers of funk music in the 1970s, for “doing more for the word ‘funk’ than [Mars or I] could ever hope to dream of in our entire lives.”
It is just too bad then, that the five-time Grammy winner Ronson now has five more Grammys than Clinton, who would have won his first Grammy last night if To Pimp a Butterfly won Album of the Year. Clinton joins Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg as featured artists on Lamar’s album who have undeniably influenced the course of music history over the span of their respective careers, and have been accordingly rewarded with zero Grammys. Hopefully the Recording Academy catches up to the rest of society before the next hip-hop masterpiece is wasted.