At this point, the Grammy Awards just feel like a yearly disappointment. This isn’t exactly a unique opinion; many fans and critics alike have been going through the same cycle of hopeful expectations, mixed feelings in response to the nominations, and disappointment with the actual ceremony for years. To avoid this piece being far too long or uninformed, I’ll essentially just be giving my personal thoughts on this year’s awards rather than the institution as a whole (I’ve linked some videos at the end that do just that, however).
The Strokes won Best Rock Album
In the best news of the night, The Strokes won the Grammy for Best Rock Album with The New Abnormal, beating out Fontaines D.C. and Sturgill Simpson, among others. I wholeheartedly agree with the Academy’s choice on this one, as The New Abnormal was one of my favorite albums of last year, and honestly of all time. It’s everything great about The Strokes distilled into 9 tracks with absolutely no filler, just amazing songs, performances, and production from the legendary Rick Rubin. If anyone deserved this award this year, it was them, especially considering they were long overdue for even a nomination from the Grammys.
HAIM had a great performance
Following Harry Styles’ introductory performance, indie band HAIM put on quite the show. As someone who’s aware of them but has never been too into their stuff, I was blown away. Walking casually around the vast performance space, the three sisters played through “The Steps”, and it looked and sounded incredible. They all appeared so comfortable and happy playing together, not to mention how evident their talent as individual musicians was. Most impressive was member Danielle Haim, going from playing drums to guitar to drums again all while singing lead vocals throughout the course of the song. In addition, whoever was in charge of the sound engineering did a great job, as everything sounded clear and powerful. All in all, it was a welcome surprise from a group I’m not too familiar with, and makes me interested to see what they do next.
The Not So Good
Phoebe Bridgers went 0 for 4
This one really, really hurt. If I haven’t already made it clear on this column, I absolutely love Phoebe Bridgers, and as such I was very excited when I found out she was nominated for not one but four Grammys this year. She had had such a massive year with Punisher, which, as with The Strokes, was one of my favorite records from last year (and ever), and to see her walk away with nothing was beyond disappointing. As much as I respect the winners (Fetch the Bolt Cutters was pretty much a shoo-in for Best Alternative Album), it’s a clear indication of the Grammy’s lack of awareness that such a talented, important artist didn’t receive any accolades.
Body Count won Best Metal Performance over Power Trip
I wasn’t entirely invested in this award, but it was still frustrating. I mean, come on. Body Count, the rap metal band fronted by Ice T, won over Power Trip? Their winning song, “Bum-Rush” isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly an innovative metal classic. It’s a bit of a slap in the face from the Academy to not give it to Power Trip after the tragic death of frontman Riley Gale last year, and that’s even without mentioning how good of a song “Executioner’s Tax” is.
…almost everything else?
At best, the Grammys were kind of boring, and at worst insanely out of touch. I could go on about all the other snubs (we all know Laura Marling deserved Best Folk Album) or the somewhat lackluster performances (I like Harry Styles just as much as the next guy, but could we please get some more subversive artists on here?), but it’d just devolve into me rambling on with all my biased opinions, so I’ll keep it concise: despite what they may promote, the Grammys exist largely to praise the most popular, commercial-friendly music out there, and consistently fail to award, or even nominate, the artists and albums with the most innovative and exciting music. This isn’t a new problem either, as proven by the many groundbreaking artists who have never won a Grammy, including Björk, Neko Case, and Talking Heads, among others. Let’s hope the Academy’s picks catch up with the times, along with their history of bigotry.
If you feel like hearing some thoughts from people who know a lot more about this stuff than me, check out these videos. The first is a fairly deep dive into the history of the Grammys as a musical institution, and the second is a more casual response to this year’s awards.