That time again. The Grammy Awards have revealed this year's nominees. The picks couldn't be any less interesting, particularly the hip-hop nods. It's as if the committee picked artists that, together, would satisfy the broadest audience -- take the commercial hit of the year, the critical hit of the year, the one from the decorated veteran, the one from the polarizing iconoclast, the one from the dogged newcomer. This year's ballot reads not like a committee's selections for best album of the year, but like a choir of castrati singing the whims of their corporate, testicle-weilding sponsors.
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Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Yeezus and Nothing Was the Same are all sensible, if boring, selections for rap album of the year. But if Magna Carta, Holy Grail and The Heist are among this year's five best albums, then this has been a pretty lame year for hip-hop, which as we spelled out recently, is most certainly not the case. And the other categories? Mostly useless. More than two-thirds of the other nominations come from the nominated albums.
Come on, now. They can't all be that good.
Jay-Z's mediocre output this year has somehow earned him the most nods for any artist in any category. Frankly, that's insane. If an unknown artist had released Magna Carta, Holy Grail, not only would it not be nominated for nine Grammys, it would have been largely ignored by the media, certainly outside of rap circles. And therein lies the problem: The Grammys, at least for hip-hop, are less about being honored by a well-informed and decisive community than pouring gratuitous praise on an already heralded name, thus earning huge sums of money on the backs of, and in affront to, critics who stick out their necks to give honest opinions.
I vowed never to watch the Grammys again after Lil B was suspiciously removed after leading the vote-in ballot for a performance in last year's events. While this silly headline disappeared after floating through the media for a couple weeks, it reveals something truly ugly about the methodology of the awards: Before artistic or even populist integrity, the Grammys will select commercial viability every time.
In all likelihood, Kendrick or Kanye will win the award for best album, and it will be well-deserved. But any informed YouTube critic could make that selection, and they'd be able to give you good reasons, too, which begs the question: Why the hell do so many people watch this crap?
Is it the glitz and the glamour? The famous guests? The witty, but largely shallow banter? If so, certainly we could hold some other ceremony that celebrates the confederacy of celebrity dunces without sacrificing the purity of our country's most beloved artistic medium. Instead, in tradition, we get to hear one last time the same song that we've been hearing all year long.
So, once again, thanks, Grammys. Thanks for nothing.