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Popularity vs talent: are the Grammy Awards just a popularity contest?

By Nick Fioravanti, Staff Writer

The 66th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday, Feb. 4, and featured a wide variety of artists taking home their fair share of hardware. The Grammys offers an experience unlike anything else in the music industry – recognizing artists, composers, and producers in a multitude of categories and genres. It’s unique in the way that it recognizes talent from only the music industry, but it’s similar to other award shows like the Oscars or Emmys due to the controversies that spring up following the decisions made about the winners of the awards. 

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While there were plenty of deserving artists and bands who won their respective awards, there always tends to be a wave of dissenters who believe that the awards ceremony has simply become a popularity contest. Even if that is not the case, it remains the general consensus among fans of the artists nominated. 

Senior theatre design and production major Grayson Sepulveda shared their thoughts on this. 

“One hundred percent [based on popularity],” Sepulveda said. “Most of the time they choose to focus on the most popular song off of these artists’ albums.”

In no other category were these feelings more prevalent throughout the night than when the winner for the Album of the Year category was announced. Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, “Midnights,” took home said award, perhaps the most coveted award of the entire ceremony.

Junior musical technology, entrepreneurship and production major Thomas Leone spoke on Swift’s victory in this category. 

“She’s everywhere in the world right now, it can’t be based on artistic merit,” Leone said. “But to be honest, the Grammys have been this way for decades.” 

Courtesy of People Magazine

On the other hand, there has also been widespread support for her win in this category. Senior actuarial science major Vincent Randazzo believes Swift deserved the award in this category.

“She’s been a global phenomenon this entire year, just completely changing the marketing scene for artists,” Randazzo stated. “Re-releasing all her old music, independently producing the Eras Tour movie, she’s just been a powerhouse. So to win album of the year, as much as it may be a popularity contest, Taylor Swift winning it makes sense, but I could see how other people could see otherwise.” 

One outspoken critic of the Grammys and the category itself was a winner himself that night, Jay-Z. After accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, he would go on to stand his ground for his wife, Beyoncé, going on to state that she has the most Grammy award wins in history (32) yet has never won the award for Album of the Year. With his daughter by his side, he implored the Grammy Awards committee to “at least get it right” and make a more concerted effort to recognize artists of color. 

This award season included a number of great female nominees, with Phoebe Bridgers taking home the most awards on the night with a total of four. Her band boygenius, consisting of Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, won two awards for their song “Not Strong Enough” and Best Alternative Music Album for their project simply titled “the record.”

 Some other notable female artists who won awards included Billie Eilish for Song of the Year with her song “What Was I Made For” from the “Barbie” soundtrack, Miley Cyrus and her song “Flowers” took home the award for Best Pop Solo Performance and long-standing Hayley Williams fronted band Paramore took home the award for Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Performance for their album and song of the same name, “This is Why.” SZA took home three awards of her own: Best R&B Song with “Snooze”, Best Progressive R&B album for “SOS” and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Ghost in the Machine” with the aforementioned Bridgers. 

While the Grammy Awards showcase new and upcoming artists, there was a considerable amount of love for artists of the older generations at the show. An artist Long Islanders all know very well, Billy Joel, showed up to perform his first new song in thirty years entitled “Turn the Lights Back On.” Joni Mitchell, who took home the award for Best Folk Album earlier that night, performed her song “Both Sides Now” which was originally released back in 1969 and re-released on the award-winning album “Joni Mitchell at Newport.” Last but not least, the most surprising moment of the entire night was when Luke Combs brought out Tracy Chapman for a performance of her 1988 hit song turned Country Music Awards-winning song “Fast Car.” Chapman had not performed a concert in over fifteen years up to that point, and had met Combs for the first time earlier that night.

While there were a good deal of winners, many still feel as though their favorite artists did not get the recognition they deserved. Sepulveda expressed disappointment at Olivia Rodrigo not receiving any awards on the night. 

“Olivia Rodrigo should’ve gone home with at least one award,” they said. “Even if it was small.” 

Randazzo believed Ice Spice deserved to win the Best New Artist Award that went to Victoria Monét.

 “Ice Spice has been everywhere,” Randazzo said. “On the radio, commercials, with Taylor Swift on the Eras Tour, just super prominent. I feel like everyone knows who she is.”

The Grammy Awards present a unique opportunity every year for musical artists to gain recognition for their accomplishments. Fans and other artists have something to look forward to every year watching their favorite musicians perform and take home awards and interact with other music industry professionals. Whether or not these awards hold any merit has been up for debate for a couple of years, but winning an award is still a huge honor to these artists.

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