In 2005, pioneering soul legend Ray Charles’ posthumous final album, Genius Loves Company, took home the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The other albums nominated for that award were Usher’s Confessions, Alicia Keys’ The Diary of Alicia Keys, Green Day’s American Idiot and Kanye West’s The College Dropout.
Two well-received rhythm and blues albums, a pioneering punk rock concept album and the massively successful debut album of perhaps the most important rapper of the 21st century — and the Grammy was awarded to a dead man.
Consequently, it was unsurprising when a soul-funk album by a rapper and actor, two insightful and political hip-hop albums and a shining pop record about millennial love were all passed over for an overproduced regurgitation of disco.
Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic winning on Sunday, among other things, made it undeniable: The Grammys are stuck in the past.
The four other albums up for Album of the Year — Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!,” Jay-Z’s 4:44, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and — were all masterful records, each of them poignant, elegant and visionary in their own way.
Sometimes, it’s OK to draw musical influence from the past (even disco). Daft Punk proved that with Random Access Memories, which blends ‘70s and ‘80s sounds with the French house duo’s signature electronic sound. 24K Magic, though, feels contrived and meek, a cheaper version of days gone by.
Aside from Mars’ sweep of the three most prodigious categories — “That’s What I Like” took home Song of the Year, and his album’s title track was dubbed Record of the Year — the Grammys ceremony itself further demonstrates the Record Academy’s lack of self-awareness.
The Grammys tried to be culturally progressive this year by highlighting the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, advocating for suicide prevention and having U2 perform in front of the Statue of Liberty in support of immigration.
The show just failed to be progressive in the slightest when it came to the actual music.
Some of the most successful and influential artists either appeared briefly (Gambino, Jay-Z, SZA, Kesha) or not at all (Frank Ocean, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran).
Lorde was reportedly not even offered a performance slot — when pressed by Variety, producer Ken Erlich said, “These shows are a matter of choices. ... There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”
That would be a fair response if Sunday’s show hadn’t made time for: three appearances by Bono; a four-minute performance of “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John and Miley Cyrus; and a sketch involving Sting, and host James Corden.
The sketch was particularly damning. Apparently, the showrunners found three minutes to insert an unfunny sidebar that featured two musicians well beyond their respective peaks and relied on the sometimes-viral “Carpool Karaoke” segment of Corden’s Late Late Show. (That show airs on CBS, the same network as the Grammys.)
Viewership numbers hit a nine-year low Sunday. It’s a clear message from music fans to the Recording Academy: Start recognizing the music that deserves it, or we won’t watch.
In recent years, masterpieces like Beyonce’s self-titled album, Ocean’s Channel Orange and West’s Graduation have all been passed over for Album of the Year. Albums like those — and like Melodrama, 4:44 and DAMN. — ought to be recognized for their risks, innovations and commentary instead of being swept under the rug.
Justin Vernon, the mastermind behind Bon Iver, said it best, tweeting: “Absolutely NO offense to Mr Mars, but you absolutely have to be s----ing me.”
Alex McCann is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you think the Grammys are stuck in the past? Let Alex know by tweeting him @alexrmccann.