The 57th annual Grammy Awards are currently underway. As I'm writing this, AC/DC is giving an awkward opening show that shows how old they are. I'll be explaining, reviewing, and attempting to understand this year's Grammys, with a focus on hip-hop and R&B winners.
First, we should go over how exactly the Grammys work. There are nearly 80 awards given, from basically all music genres. From rap and country, to gospel and urban contemporary (the most recently added category), the Grammys cover basically all contemporary music. Besides the genre-specific awards, there are four general categories: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year. The winners are decided by a panel of music experts, who are about 150 people who are either musicians, producers, composers, or anyone who has worked on at least 6 commercially released songs. The judges, as well as record labels can submit recordings for consideration. Each judge can vote for any of the four general awards, and nine of the genre-specific awards. Five finalists are chosen for each category, and then the judges again vote for the four general categories, and eight genre-specific categories. The judges are asked to vote in their own genres, but don't have to. Music released between September 30, 2013 and October 1, 2014 are eligible for awards this year. Historically, the awards usually go to artists who are the most popular and sell the most records. Pop music usually wins the big awards, and smaller genres (especially hip-hop) usually gets snubbed. Often, the Grammys are more of a popularity contest than a showcase of true talent.
Unsurprisingly, Sam Smith is winning big. Less than 40 minutes into the awards, and he's already won Best Pop Vocal Album and Best New Artist. Pharrell is also pulling ahead, with Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album. This is a bit of a shock, since Beyonce and Sail Out were both nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and Taylor Swift, John Legend, and Sam Smith were all also nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance. Last year's Forecastle headliner Beck won Best Rock Album, and Beyonce wins Best R&B Performance for "Drunk In Love". In general, the live performances have been pretty toned down. Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani, Ariana Grande, Kanye West, and Ed Sheeran all sung fairly slow songs. I'm about to go to bed, but keep watching for performances by Common & John Legend, Kanye West, Rihanna, & Paul McCartney, and Sam Smith.
There is a double-edged sword concerning hip-hop at the Grammy's today. Last year was pretty pitiful for major rap releases, and many people were concerned that Iggy Azalea would win the Best Rap Album award. But Eminem took home the award instead for The Marshall Mathers LP 2. This was the best selling rap album of all the nominees, and while I think Oxymoron, Nobody's Smiling, and Because the Internet were superior albums, I can easily see why the didn't win, and at least Wiz and Azalea didn't win. Also, Kendrick Lamar finally took home a Grammy, two in fact. He won both Rap Record of the Year and Best Rap Song of the Year for "i". The judges agreed with me on that one. But, none of these awards are televised. All of the hip-hop winners were announced before the ceremony, and as of 10:00 EST, there have been no rap awards given in on live television. This is an even bigger snub than last year, when Macklemore took home the Best Rap Album award over Kanye, Kendrick, Drake, and Jay-Z. Rap is a huge part of contemporary music, and it's ridiculous that they won't even mention the rap awards on television. Rap is one of the newer categories in the Grammys, but it's still been recognized for almost 20 years. I am about to go to sleep, so they may show the rap awards later on, and I'll look like an absolute fool, but I don't think that will happen. Yet again, the Grammys have snubbed an entire genre of music, a genre that is expanding and refining itself every day. It's truly a shame that after almost 20 years this is still happening.