What’s safer: a kindergarten playground or the Grammy 2017 nominations?
If you chose the latter, you are correct. Once again, The Recording Academy has stuck to their usual favorites (especially in the major categories) and with few exceptions has ignored the vast array of talented musicians out of mainstream radio’s reach.
Roots rock singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson is the only outlier in the Best Album of the Year category, which also includes Adele, Beyoncé, Drake and Justin Bieber. Record of the Year and Song of the Year only features mainstream artists. The Recording Academy then uses those same artists for multiple nominations, a very lazy practice. Justin Bieber’s Purpose is a solid pop album, but did it really deserve nine nominations, including Album of the Year? Kanye West and Rihanna also earned eight nominations each, but despite both of their albums (The Life of Pablo and Anti, respectively) earning critical praise, it’s no Lemonade. Couldn’t one of these nominations be passed to Frank Ocean’s Blond? Or the dozens of worthy artists in the funk, jazz, alterative, roots, rock, etc. genres?
The Best Rock Album category is not too adventurous either. French heavy metal band Gojira’s Magma is the exception to a category that includes Panic! at the Disco, Cage the Elephant, Blink-182, and Weezer. It’s ironic that this is the first Grammy nomination for both Blink-182 and Weezer; Blink-182 should have been nominated in their early 2000’s heyday and not for their latest album California, which is missing the original co-singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge, and Weezer’s Blue Album is far superior to their latest White Album.
And there are the blatant inaccuracies. Why is David Bowie’s Blackstar nominated for Best Alternative Music Album and not Best Rock Album, but his song “Blackstar” is nominated for both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance? Why is The Record Company’s Give It Back to You nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album and not Best Rock Album? While there is no denying the blues influence, The Record Company is firmly in the rock category. Even the band itself agrees, as lead singer and guitarist Chris Vos in an interview with journalist Kate Wertheimer said, “…We tip our hat to the [blues] greats – Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed – and carry a lot of the blues in our music. But we’ve got too much respect for the genre to lump ourselves into it. We’re more similar to an early rock & roll band.”
There are so many worthy rock artists that were snubbed for artists that shouldn’t even be in those categories, like Beyoncé’s Best Rock Performance nomination for “Don’t Hurt Yourself” featuring Jack White (sorry Recording Academy, just because Jack White is featured and there is a Led Zeppelin sample doesn’t make this song rock worthy). Where are the nominations for The Struts’ Everybody Wants reissue, Rival Sons’ Hollow Bones, or even usually Grammy favorites Red Hot Chili Peppers and their latest The Getaway?
Unfortunately, none of this is a surprise. This is the same academy after all that nominated Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song last year. The Grammys have generally stuck to Top 40 favorites for their major categories and consistently miss the mark. Like the VMAs, the Grammys are losing legitimacy by appealing to a very young audience and ignoring important music subcultures. If the Grammys want to remain relevant, they need to dig deeper and recognize true talent.