Should Kanye West, Louis CK, and Marilyn Manson Have Been Nominated for Grammys?
Amid boycotts and protests are the Grammy Awards on their way to the pop culture dumpster?
I’ve never been nominated for a Grammy. Not even for the sweet dulcet sound of my skyhooked basketball swishing melodically through the net like a leathery palm brushing against shivering harp strings. Whatever. I’m cool with it.
But I’m less cool with what’s been going on with the Grammys the last few years. And if the ratings are any indication, the rest of America is also questioning their relevance. It would be easy to blame a general cultural trend of decreased interest in awards shows as a clunky old Model-T in a world of streamlined Teslas. Sure, the younger generations may not be as captivated as oldsters by stodgy ceremonies of self-promotion, even when bedazzled with hip, young stars like host Trevor Noah and performers Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, and West Side Story star Rachel Zegler, among others.
But this debilitating injury to the Grammys isn’t just whiplash from the sudden u-turns of changing cultural trends, it’s self-inflicted. The Grammys have chosen over the last few years to kneecap themselves through several self-destructive acts, from nominating social pariahs, to not nominating worthy contenders, to overt misogyny, to low-grade racism.
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Duke Ellington said there are only two kinds of music: good music and the other kind. We’d all like to pay homage to the Duke and judge works of art and their artists only based on the merits of the work. History may have the luxury of sanitizing works from the nasty actions of the artists because the victims and the circumstances are dust, but we don’t. The wounds are too fresh. So, when a self-proclaimed governing body of an art form chooses to give out awards, it has the responsibility to take into consideration that promoting a work or an artist is also a passive endorsement of their behavior. We owe it to society, and to victims, to judge art in the here and now and toss those nasty actions onto the scales of judgement. That’s why we shouldn’t nominate Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby for Lifetime Achievement Awards, even if their body of work indicates they deserve it.
Yes, this can be a slippery slope. We could end up like some sort of snobby Bridgerton jury excluding people based on their distasteful politics, their disheveled looks, or their disaffected attitude. Which is why we have to be vigilant, but not remiss. We have to draw lines and, though those lines can move, we still have to make the effort.