Jamaal Fisher | Staff Writer
The Grammy awards are known to be the highest accolade in the music industry. Unfortunately, many artists’ sole purpose is to attain a Grammy. By doing so, they completely overlook the effort and love that should go into the creation of a musical masterpiece, sometimes opting to choose the auto tune route, a route that helped Jamie Foxx and T-Pain reel in a Grammy of their own for the song “Blame it” in 2010 as best R&B song. Meanwhile, in the same category, there were nominations for Musiq Soulchild, Mary J. Blige, and India Arie featuring Musiq Soulchild for the songs: “Ifuleave (If You Leave),” and, “Chocolate high,” respectively.
These songs were greatly overlooked. Ironically, at the many weddings and receptions I attended that year, “Blame it” was the soundtrack for the reception whereas the other two would relate more to the actual marriage and love. The songs that relate more to true, genuine relationships, whether good or bad, would, given the history of rhythm and blues (R&B), seem to have more of an advantage over the more animated songs that would imply that the meaning of any relationship started because of alcohol. But, as they continuously show us, the Grammys are not perfect. Another clue about the Grammys’ imperfections is its failure to show proper recognition. Many singers are overlooked, despite their impact on music as a whole.
This year’s show was opened by Bruce Springsteen, and we saw a closing by the historical Sir Paul McCartney. Another legend that was shown during the awards was Diana Ross, who presented the Album of the Year. This is the only time that we see her on stage regarding an award. For such a legend, one that helped catapult the career of Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, she was only seen presenting an award. What’s ironic is that she received a Lifetime Achievement award off air. The significance of her work in and out of the limelight leaves me appalled that such a legend could not have her award presented to her on air, but can present an award to an artist that regards her as an icon. The Grammys also tend to pay a tribute to the fallen musicians in the previous year. This year it was done in a memoriam. Included were, but were not limited to: Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Andrea True, Heavy D, and even Steve Jobs. But, the sometimes flawed Grammy’s also forgot some extremely influential contributors to music, such as the honest poet Gil Scott-Heron, Don Cornelius- the engineer of the Soul Train, and the great Etta James. What is ironic about forgetting Etta James’ recent passing is that she was somewhat responsible for one of Beyonce’s previous awards in 2010. The forgetting of these artists entirely is now leading to the loss of hope for those who believed the Grammys would restore honor in all genres of music. The fact that some were always questioning the logic behind the scenes is quite amazing considering its incredibly wide acceptance. As recent as last year, The Recording Academy announced that as many as thirty categories will be consolidated, modified or completely removed. According to an article by NewsOne.com, these categories were the five R&B categories: Best R&B female, Best R&B male, Best Urban Alternative Performance, Best Contemporary R&B Album, and Best R&B performance by a Duo or Group with vocal. What’s sad is that the Grammy’s seem to be doing away with more of the “Urban” categories. By doing so, they’ve blended every “Urban” artist into one category. If known as a singer, R&B, if known as a rapper, Rap; this is completely unfair. By doing this, many deserving, true R&B artists are constantly overlooked.
This also gives an unpleasant atmosphere to the concept of achieving an award based on another’s perception of what is good, quality music.
Luckily, there is hope. Best new artist, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, said it perfectly, “it’s really hard to accept this award. There’s so much talent out here, like on the stage and a lot of talent that’s not here… It’s also hard to accept because when I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs.”
In other words, regardless of an award, he was content with the music he made. It was out of love. Love that is clearly shown in the works of fellow nominees for best R&B album such as El Debarge, R. Kelly, Ledisi, and Kelly Price. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E., but to have it reign supreme over these albums as “Best R&B” is nothing short of absurd. It seems to have more Pop qualities than any other classified genre.
R&B was created to show others qualities that were not defined by money, but with soul. Limiting Chris Brown to R&B not only stops his ability to cross over and build a bigger fan base, but keeps the fellow nominees at a disadvantage. The unfairness of being at a disadvantage keeps the nominees on a string. The string represents hope. Hope that is exploited by record labels being able to add “Grammy Nominee” to the cover of an album in hopes of increasing sales. This exploitation causes a cycle that has artists competing with others for sales, and not pushing a message or creating what they feel is right to themselves. The quality of music should always overtake the quantity of sales.