Why I love to hate to love the Grammy Awards

It was only a matter of time before I wrote about my favourite music topic here on Picky Bastards. I’d warned everyone else on the site that this was inevitable, but given nominations for the 2020 show were released just a few weeks ago, it’s finally time to mention the Grammy Awards here. I’ve written tens of thousands of words about who I think should be nominated for; win a trophy; perform at; walk the red carpet in a ridiculous outfit; call out the industry in their acceptance speech or just be an all around arsehole at my favourite award show.

Some people hate award shows, I LOVE them. I love getting ridiculously pissed off about something that’s so unimportant to my own life. I love investing so much energy in rooting for an outsider who is never going to even be part of the conversation for the voting panel. I love seeing performances that I’ll be talking about and re-watching for the next few years. I love hearing acceptance speeches where artists are clearly conflicted about caring too much about these awards, but also being pretty happy that they’ve been acknowledged for their work.

Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year in 2011 for The Suburbs

As award shows go you have your fan voted/commercial driven ones like the American Music Awards, or you have your small panel chosen awards like the Mercury Prize supposedly based on quality of the records or shows that do both, such as the Brit Awards. The Grammys sit at the top of the pile, not just because of the sheer number of trophies up for grabs, the 2020 show will feature 84 categories, but it holds a level of authority that even a nomination can be more of a big deal to an artist or a producer than a win in something like the Billboard Awards.

Having written and been enthusiastic about these awards for about a decade now, I’ve discovered so much music that I never would have gone near, similarly to how many of the Picky B’s team feel about the Mercury Prize. I never would have even tried to listen to Arcade Fire had The Suburbs not been nominated for Album of the Year, same goes for records by Lady Antebellum, Brandi Carlile and The Black Keys. I vividly remember The Suburbs winning that main award, which threw everyone expecting an Eminem clean sweep off guard; Shady ended up walking home with just 2 of the 10 trophies he was nominated for. Kacey Musgraves winning last year for hands down the best album of the year felt like the stars aligning perfectly in the top category for the first time in years.

Of course, I also really love just how random the Grammys can be. Esperanza Spalding beating Drake, Justin Bieber, Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons to win Best New Artist? Morning Phase giving Beck an Album of the Year win against huge albums from Beyoncé, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran, which very nearly kicked off Kanye’s second ‘Imma let you finish’ moment of the decade. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant winning every major tophy for an album that barely anyone had heard outside of the Americana scene. Bjork being nominated for 13 awards and not winning a single one is something I actually quite respect now, it would feel for her to win without breaking the all time nomination record at this point.

Esperanza Spalding is surely the definitive Grammy shock winner.

There’s a joy in being totally wrong too, where getting extremely angry about Bruno Mars winning all three major awards for an objectively bad 3rd album, or Beyoncé seemingly never winning Album of the Year, even when Adele spends her speech explaining why Lemonade was a better album than hers anyway. Macklemore winning every Rap category against Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a travesty that culminated in an awkward set of text messages from Macklemore being shared on Twitter to say sorry to Kendrick. I get so frustrated at snubs and stupid winners in a way that only gets me more angry about something that really doesn’t matter at all.

This year’s show features so many interesting names, Lizzo and Billie Eilish taking top honours in every major category. H.E.R. continuing her streak of massive nominations for EPs stitched together as an album. Lana Del Rey, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend giving more alternative music the biggest showing its had in years, all three are nominated for Album of the Year and deservedly so in my opinion. Rosalía, Maggie Rogers and Yola being up for Best New Artist is brilliantly diverse and welcome to see, as is the distinctive lack of Ed Sheeran pretty much anywhere. The 1975 and FKA Twigs finally getting some love from the voters is brilliant to see too. It’ll be an interesting year, especially as we have some genuine big favourites in the main categories again.

What’s great though is that there’s definitely something for everyone to be getting behind, it’s hard to see any other award show where more left field albums can compete wholeheartedly with global blockbusters, or places where people will debate whether Truth Hurts by Lizzo or Bring My Flowers Now by Tanya Tucker is a more deserving Song of the Year. It’s why I love this stupid pointless award show and why this year I’ll be just as annoyingly obnoxious when February arrives and the show airs, as I get myself ready to do it all again over the next 12 months too.

Words by Sam Atkins

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