The most sought after recognition in the commercial realm of music is to receive a GRAMMY Award. The GRAMMY’s are both hosted and decided by The Recording Academy, also known as The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (“NARAS”). NARAS is an organization of musicians, producers, recording engineers, and other recording professionals. Other than the notion of popularity as it pertains to commercialism, they are meant and assumed to be an agnostic establishment that chooses nominations based on industry and artistic merit. This club of so-called industry elites decide the “only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency, and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” This mission is a platform outlined by The Recording Academy (see www.grammy.org/recording-academy) to command credibility.
Why do I italicize “without regard to album sales or chart position”? It may seem obvious to some, but clearly not to the masses. If that were truly the case, why are the GRAMMY Awards a mere showcase of the new pop elite? Why is the night dominated by a mix of pop performers that are fixtures and one-hit-wonders?
To a certain degree, it is necessary to rely on tastemakers, industry professionals, and critics to illuminate quality within the creative industries, as music is a subjective medium. This makes it far more difficult to measure both success and quality. Although chart position and sales are a measure of monetary success, they are far from a measure of “overall excellence.” However, money and commercialism can often corrupt otherwise honest efforts.
“Why don’t the Grammy’s matter? Because it feels rigged and cheap – like a popularity contest that the insiders’ club has decided,” said Grammy-winning rocker, Trent Reznor. Controversy surrounding Grammy credibility is nothing new, but it continues to trend in the wrong direction. Whereas artistic integrity and innovation make less and less of an appearance in each of the last several years.
Mainstream media and majority opinion should not be relied upon to define art and quality. However, it does say something about culture as a whole, and it’s speaking volumes at the moment. Something was lost in the over commercialization of music/art emerging over the past two decades. Gone are the days of dissent and rebellion, and here is an age of homogenized popular music.
How does The Recording Academy sweep this under the rug? The general public is typically unaware of the awards given outside of the highly televised broadcast. Most notably, The Producer of the Year award didn’t get any air time during the Grammy’s, but it was arguably the most important of the night. “On Sunday, it was the award that said the most about the state of pop. It revealed that one man is behind our music’s dominant sound: Swedish pop savant Max Martin,” as reported by Music.Mic.
Martin, as well as many other songwriting teams, has been one of the most secretive but influential contributors to pop music in the past two decades. Hell, most people still think “artists” actually write most of their own songs. If The Recording Academy is going to gain any credibility back, it might as well just admit that commercialization and monetary success determine Grammy awarding. Moreover, they should pull back the curtain and celebrate the talented songwriters behind all of this success.
Let me truly enlighten you on the state of the industry by highlighting just one songwriter, Max Martin, and his writing credits in 2014:
- “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
- “Break Free” by Ariana Grande featuring Zedd
- “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
- “Problem” by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
- “Shake It Off ” by Taylor Swift
- “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
And these were just the ones that made the top 10. Martin produced and co-wrote seven of the 13 tracks on Taylor Swift’s 1989, 10 of the 13 tracks on Katy Perry’s Prism and all of the biggest hits off Ariana Grande’s My Everything (including “Problem” and “Love Me Harder”). He co-wrote Jennifer Lopez’s comeback “First Love,” Shakira’s World Cup anthem “Dare (La La La)” and Pitbull’s “Wild Wild Love,” the lead single off his Globalization album (as referenced in Music.Mic).
Martin is responsible for more No. 1 singles than Michael Jackson: Google it!
Where do we go from here? Do we, as a society, just accept and embrace this formulaic sound? Do we give the “OK” to The Recording Academy? If that’s the case, then the true artists should be showcased: the songwriters.
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