Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer
The Grammys, much like the Emmys, often give awards to artists that some of the public may like, even though tons of critics, fans, and other artists strongly disagree with the choice. A perfect example of an artist so vehemently disagreeing with the award choice was in 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye West jumped on stage, took the mic from Taylor Swift, and declared that Beyoncé had “one of the best videos of all time.” Of course, this is an extreme situation that does not happen often, although Kanye did attempt another interruption when Beck won “Album of the Year” in 2015. Had Kanye attended the Grammys this year, he may have felt compelled to undertake a similar stunt, in support of either Khalid or SZA, both of whom deserved the “Best New Artist” more than its recipient, Alessia Cara.
There are a number of problems with the Grammys’ choice this year, the first being that Alessia Cara is not a “new” artist, having broken into the U.S. and Canadian mainstream radio about three years ago. At that time, Questlove was championing her as a new artist, and she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Her performance that night was mediocre at best, with her appearing to lip sync instead of singing live. Furthermore, she has been a household name in her native Canada for several years, which almost makes calling her a “new” artist an insult. While I am glad that a Canadian finally won the award, overlooking SZA and Khalid makes those that voted for her as “Best New Artist” appear out-of-touch with current popular music trends.
Another huge problem with this year’s Grammys was the overwhelmingly male-dominated categories, and the eventual male winners of all but one of them. In the past, the awards ceremony has been criticized for focusing on mostly white males, as have been many other awards shows. This year, the nominations included a more diverse selection of artists, like SZA, Khalid, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay-Z, but the winners were mostly male and mostly white. The only category that had a female winner was “Best New Artist,” but Alessia Cara is a white Canadian artist. Especially this year, with the #MeToo campaign being so popular on Twitter, we should have seen more women and minorities taking home the Grammy statuettes.
While it is nice to see an artist like Bruno Mars take home so many awards, this is yet another problem with the Grammys. Why not spread that love around a bit, giving their due to other artists who were just as deserving as Mars? Fortunately for Alessia Cara, Mars was not included in the nominations for “Best New Artist.” Those artists were Alessia, SZA, Khalid, Lil’ Uzi Vert, and Julia Michaels. Right away, two of those artists should be ignored – Lil’ Uzi Vert due to the fact that he was a new artist in 2016 (also because he’s terrible), and Julia Michaels because who in the world is Julia Michaels? That only leaves SZA and Khalid as valid choices for this year’s winner, and either one would have been an understandable, justifiable pick for “Best New Artist.”
Khalid is truly a brand-new artist, with his first hit single, “Location,” becoming an overnight sensation with a bump on Snapchat by Kylie Jenner on his high school graduation day. His first studio album dropped last year, and he has been appearing on tracks by Kendrick Lamar and others for a couple of years now. He makes true pop music that has crossover appeal for many different genres. This album is certified platinum, and MTV declared him “Best New Artist of 2017.” Had the Academy been paying attention to popular music trends, they would have likely voted him as winner instead of Alessia Cara.
SZA also dropped her debut studio album last year, to much critical acclaim. She has been recording for a few years, but her first major hits and mainstream popularity began last year. Her album is an interesting combination of neo-soul, alternative R&B, ambient hip hop, and funky, electro jazz that makes for great baby-making music. In terms of a new artist, she truly stands out, due to her genre-bending music and passionate, sexually-charged lyrics. Her album, “Ctrl,” was included on numerous “Best of 2017” lists, and deserves all the attention and praise it received. She would have been a valid recipient of the “Best New Artist” award as much as Khalid. Either choice would have been smarter, better, and more well-received than Alessia Cara.
Get with the times, Grammys, and award the diversity that is present in modern-day music in your nomination and decision process. Next year, let’s have categories that are truly representative of the beautiful diversity in the arts. Let’s have an award show that gives awards to those most deserving of the award that year, not because of some previous snub or other undecipherable reason. The ball is in your court, Recording Academy, so please get with the times. We will be waiting.