So you’ve probably already seen the Grammys and witnessed the ensuing controversy that erupted when Kendrick Lamar lost the ”Best Rap Album” award to Macklemore. Twitter was ablaze with people claiming that Kendrick should have taken the award instead of Macklemore (with Macklemore himself going as far as saying he ‘robbed‘ Kendrick). At the core of all these responses is a misunderstanding of how the Grammy award winners are selected. So we put together a little list explaining how the Grammys work and why it isn’t such a big deal that Kendrick lost.
For an album to be considered for a Grammy it must have been released in the United States between October 1 of the previous year and September 30 of the current year. Both Kendrick and Macklemore’s albums fall within these perimeters. We’re doing good so far.
- The Grammy Committee
Here’s where it really gets interesting. Different record companies submit recordings to be nominated to the Recording Academy. This academy is made up of expert reviewers from the recording industry who determine whether a work is eligible and entered in the correct category for official nomination. The Academy then mails ballots to voting members (which comprises of different industry experts – vocalists, conductors, songwriters, music reviewers and the like). These voting members trim down all of the nominations to five nominees for each award. A private accounting firm called Deloitte tallies the votes after which a second round of ballots is sent and the winners are chosen.
Sounds legit right? Here’s the catch: Besides the aforementioned voting members, there exists a secret committee that can overrule the voting membership’s nominations in certain categories. This kind of negates the whole purpose of voting in the first place and decreases the awards’ credilbilty.
On paper, the Grammys aren’t about sales. In fact, they claim to award artists “without regard for album sales or chart position”. In reality, this isn’t true. There has been a growing consensus that the Grammys usually hand awards to more commercially successful albums (here and here). Take Kendrick Lamar’s ”good kid M.A.A.D City” for example. The album garnered substantial critical acclaim and commercial success. However it pales into comparison with Macklemore’s “The Heist”, which spawned multi-platinum selling singles (emphasis on the plural) as opposed to Kendrick’s solitary platinum selling single, “Swimming Pools”.
So there you have it. That’s how the Grammys work. And, just as consolation, Kendrick shouldn’t worry too much about not winning a Grammy. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix never won any Grammys either. That shows you how seriously we should take these awards, right?
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