• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

The Grammys: Is it just all pop?

ByGeorge Balfour

Feb 15, 2024
Illustration of floral gramophone

Whilst receiving the second-ever Dr Dre Global Impact Award at this years Grammys, Jay-Z stated:
“Some of you going to go home tonight and feel like you’ve been robbed, some of you may get robbed, some of you don’t belong in the category.”

Many have understood this comment to be a direct response to Beyonce’s previous snubs for Album of the Year as recently as 2023 but it opens up a greater debate within the Grammys themselves: what is considered more important by the recording academy: popularity or critical acclaim?

This year’s and last year’s Grammys act as a perfect background to this debate with disagreements around the Album of the Year award. It was Taylor Swift’s Midnights (the second most streamed album of the year) that was victorious, winning over critically acclaimed artists such as SZA, Lana Del Rey and Olivia Rodrigo. With her previous success at the Grammys and the recognition she has gained for both her Eras tour, theatrical release, as well as her other musical releases in 2023, Swift was bound to dominate the Grammy’s big hitter categories. However, with Midnights’ mixed reception amongst members of the public along with critics, a case can be made for the Grammys’ favouring of mainstream pop in the best album and record category.

Harry Styles’ victory in 2023 adds further validity to this argument with Harry’s House now being the 38th most streamed album on Spotify of all time, beating out arguably much more deserving contenders such as Kendrick Lamar’s Mr Morale & The Big Steppers and Beyonce’s Renaissance. Both albums were praised as triumphant comebacks for the artists, sitting as frontrunners throughout the year.

These consistent snubs don’t just appear in the Album of the Year category, as many debated decisions have been made in the Rap Album category. This year, in an unexpected move, Killer Mike’s less commercially successful album Michael instead of front runners and commercial giants such as Travis Scott’s Utopia and Metro Boomin’s Heroes & Villains. With some even claiming not to have heard of the winning artist, this could be a move from the recording academy to move away from previous accusations of favouring commercially successful artists.

Record of the Year continues the trend of leaning toward pop when choosing a winner as 7 of the last 10 wins have been of the pop genre. Evidence like this shows that the Grammys over the years have not represented the true spread of musical talent across genres including within the underground scene. Even though attempts have been made toward inclusivity across the board this has still not been achieved. In doing so a wider problem is created; in order to show the public the sheer talent across the industry more representation is needed of smaller artists and wider genres so they too can be given their flowers.

Read more on the Grammys: Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and the Grammys

Illustration by Jessica Bolevin