In recent years, critics have denounced major award shows like the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys. Many critics argue many award shows are too long, too political and too self-important. Award shows are blasted as being pointless, possible cause behind their declining ratings. But entertainers deserve recognition for their work. Winning major awards doesn’t only carry an actor or pop star’s career, but also cements their legacy within popular culture. What do you think? Let’s analyze both sides.
Award shows do matter. Why?
The Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, and Emmys are prestigious awards that can further the careers of an artist. The Billboard Awards, BET Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes are also examples of an artist’s popular impact in their respective industry.
The award shows matter because the awards matter. Awards remain the authorities of artistic accomplishment, where otherwise commercial accomplishment (box office, ratings) would be the only benchmark. Of course, these shows can be bad. That’s part of the game. Viewers still care, they’re just not appealed to the shows like they once were.
Now that streaming dominates music consumption, the Grammys arguably matter even more than they did in the past. With tens of thousands of albums released each year, the nominations offer artists a way to cut through the ever-crowded field, land much-needed attention and offer an incentive for fans to taste some new releases since it doesn’t cost anything extra to stream them. The Grammys moved to capitalize on that this year, expanding the top categories from five nominees to eight.
Many major award shows give recognition to less popular art, thus giving them the attention they deserve. Popularity doesn’t always equal quality, so when the Grammys give Best New Artist to jazz musician Esperanza Spalding over Justin Bieber, it means so much more. Award shows are able to take art with niche followings and prove their value to the mainstream.
Winning a major award can work wonders for an artist’s career. For movie actors, it means more opportunities. For TV stars, it can give you a huge salary boost. For singers, it makes for greater commercial success. For Broadway shows, it provides the mainstream advertising that can prevent you from shutting down. Some may claim that awards don’t matter in the long run, but for so many creatives hoping to make careers out of their art, they can make dreams come true. This is especially relevant for minority stars. Take Viola Davis’ famous Emmy speech for example, in which she stated, “you cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” This success creates opportunities for voices outside the predominately white male system, and can ultimately provide inspiration for a new generation of young artists who now see that they too can reach for the stars.
Furthermore, award shows are some of the most expensive events of the year and you can see every dollar onscreen, from the beautiful dresses to the extreme stage designs to the elaborate production numbers. There is an indisputable appeal of seeing the most impressive celebrities dressed up in the red carpet. For many, it’s the reason to tune in to every award show.
Award shows don’t matter. Why?
Award shows oftentimes lack variety and don’t always get the winners right. Sometimes they reward based on popularity, sometimes based on the talent and sometimes it’s just a political win. Why Taylor Swift always win? Why Macklemore beat Kendrick Lamar at the Grammys? Fame, yes! But why Chance the Rapper won all those awards and beat Drake? It seems like there is no coherence. It’s just confusing. And at the end of the days, there will always be some kind of controversy.
But the public has already spoken. They’ve stopped buying into the idea that the opinions of these elitist bodies hold any special meaning. Even with the bodies themselves doing everything they can do now to win back that regard, they’ve already been tone-deaf for years. And after years of being alienated, the public has simply stopped caring.
The business of entertainment isn’t like it once was. The internet age and the advent of streaming and piracy have upended the industry standards. The critics and tastemakers who once held an excessive amount of power are now usually avoided. In the old days, you had to get a record deal, get spins on radio, and spawn high record sales to be called a success. Now, artists can go straight to their fans through platforms like Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube and tour the country without ever having to interact with a record company. This change has been great for art, allowing artists to focus more on their artistry, but it has left the music industry fighting to maintain a sense of relevance.
That’s not to say The Grammys have been entirely stagnant for the recent years. Category designations like “Urban Contemporary” were created to modernize and diversify the show, and it’s cool to see they’ve created space for stylistically fluid artists like Anderson .Paak this year. The problem is that music as a whole has been post-genre for a minute, which is something the vast majority of The Grammys categories fail to recognize. What’s the point of distinctions like “Best Rock Song” and “Best Alternative Music Album” if they both feature David Bowie and Radiohead? Combine that with all the format restrictions around what can even qualify for a Grammy. Do you remember when Chance The Rapper asked, “What’s an album these days, anyways?” in light of the growth of self-releases and free mixtapes.
If you want to get an idea, you can check our recent Award Shows recap:
Don’t forget to tell us what do you think about it!