Jordan Pedersen is the proud winner of several Cable ACE Awards
So the Grammys are a joke, right? A short history lesson: Bowing to the pressures of the market, the Grammys created the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category in 1989…and then gave it to Jethro Tull over Metallica’s And Justice for All. And Beck himself lost out in 1997 for his magnum opus Odelay to Celine Dion’s cheeseball epic Let’s Talk About Love.
So when Kanye West almost “Imma let you finish”ed for a second time on Sunday night, the reaction fell into three buckets:
1. Kanye’s an asshole
2. Kanye was right.
3. The Grammys are a joke.
I’m not here to argue about points 1 and 2 – though he is, and he was.
My main point here is to unpack the following argument: the Grammys are a joke, so Kanye shouldn’t care. And as much as I’d like to simply ignore the deathly dull three-hour music industry circle jerk, the sad truth is that the Grammys still do matter. A study by NPR of post-Grammy sales performance by Album of the Year winners found an uptick in sales of at least fifty percent and as much as one thousand percent. For people who spend all their time on Twitter and Facebook Arcade Fire may seem like a household name, but based on the response to their win, the Grammys elevated their profile significantly.
And that’s the problem: the Grammys suck, but they’re kinda all we have. Until a meaningful alternative presents itself – I’m pulling for you, Kids Choice Awards – the Grammys are the highest-profile awards show in the music world, and it’s only natural that artists should welcome the prestige and remunerative benefits that accompany them.
But the problem is, the Grammys themselves are an at best traditionalist and at worst racist institution that has, year after year, failed to reward the artists – many of them black artists – who are actually pushing the culture forward. Last year, the Grammys saw fit to award walking haircut Macklemore with Best Rap Album of the Year, over Kendrick Lamar, whose Good Kid M.A.A.D. City was what many consider the best major label rap album since Illmatic. To add insult to injury, they continue *not to televise* a single one of the rap awards. And this year, they passed over Beyoncé’s universally acclaimed, epoch-shifting self-titled album so that they could make amends to Beck for Odelay.
So what do you do when a major institution proves itself to be outdated and possibly prejudiced?
You boycott. (editors note – The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff boycotted the Grammy’s in 1989. So jiggy.)
Kanye, you’re right: the Grammys are playing with you. So stop going to the Grammys. And if you win one, don’t gloat about it. Do what you – to be fair, rudely – told Beck to do, and give it away. Then get Kendrick, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Drake to do the same. (I’d say Jay too, but somehow I doubt dude would accept the call.)
And then, because no boycott is complete without some solidarity, get some of your white collaborators to do the same: Bon Iver seems like he gives few fucks, I bet he’d be down. Call Elton John; he knows the sting of prejudice; I bet he’d say yes. I bet Beck would say yes, too.
The point is, yeah, Kanye’s a douchebag – he admits as much himself. But what’s the greater injustice here? A guy interrupting a speech? Or the biggest awards show in music passing over black artists year after year?
So yeah, the Grammys do matter. And that’s why it’s time to boycott them.