Are Awards Losing Their Shine?
Awards season is in full swing with the Brit Awards and the Oscars dominating the showbiz pages – but do awards really matter anymore?
This year the Brits did something about the decades of ‘playing it safe’ which led to Robbie Williams and Coldplay winning a record nine awards each. The judging committee welcomed 1,200 new members to better represent the gender and ethnic make-up of the music industry and the results have been seen in the nominations. In yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick pointed out that the categories this year paint a much better picture of today’s charts with clashes of genres and styles.
These clashes are what makes our music tastes so special. For example, in his latest single Stormzy shouts out his pop hero – “I was in the O2 singing my lungs out. Rudeboy, you’re never too big for Adele” – showing that in 2017 there’s no room for genre purists.
The fact that Little Mix can sit alongside Radiohead in the Best British Group category is as brilliant as it is farcical. This also leads to the situation where one artist will be declared ‘The Best’ which is reductive to every other artist in their category as well as every other artist who couldn’t afford to submit their work.
At this year’s celebrity marathon that is the Grammys, there were two moments which captured the comical nature of giving out prizes for music. The first was the absence of critically acclaimed artists – Kanye received eight nominations but didn’t attend (and ‘coincidentally’ didn’t win a single award). Drake was out playing for his fans in London and Frank Ocean couldn’t even be bothered to put forward his incredible second album Blonde. In an interview with the New York Times Ocean said: “”That institution [the Grammys] certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.”
The second Grammys talking point was Adele breaking her Album of the Year award in half and dedicating it to Beyoncé: “I can’t possibly accept this award; Lemonade was just so monumental.” In 2017, the triumph of a pop album over a political album is less easy to dismiss than the halcyon days of 2013 when Taylor Swift’s 1989 won best album over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly in a time when the world seemed slightly less divided.
Adele’s destruction of the trophy was a symbol which dismissed the importance of the prize and put forward the notion that personal accolades are nothing in the face of collective appreciation of all great art.
The whole Brits and Grammys debate can be boiled down to the industry’s desire to rank culture in an attempt to boost sales. The fact is that if you win a Brit/Grammy/Oscar, your album/film will sell more copies. The Oscars has been turning art into a competition since 1929 and has reached a tipping point with millions of dollars spent campaigning to get a little golden trophy which adds a big pile of green to the lucky film studio’s bank account.
As long as we take the awards for what they are – a shiny celebration of culture – then we won’t lose sight of what’s important. Watch the Oscars because the speeches are always great and tune into the Brits because there will be some great performances but don’t cross Little Mix’s album off of your birthday list because The 1975 won the award for best group.