Awards that recognize talent are great but when it becomes a popularity contest the shows lose all meaning
I’m drinking coffee that is far too weak for a Monday morning. I’m drinking weak coffee because it is Monday morning. You know, the kind where you think you’re pouring the beans into the grinder but half of them are actually missing and falling onto the floor kind of morning. As a result, my coffee is very much like last night’s American Music Awards: Weak and bland to the point of nearly being useless.
What, you didn’t realize that the American Music Awards (AMAs) were last night? Welcome to the club. I woke this morning to something in my newsfeed about Ariana Grande thanking her fans for sticking by her during her emotional collapse this year. I’m not making light of serious mental conditions when I respond with: YAWN. She’s had a rough year. That’s not a problem. She’s surviving and that’s wonderful. But does that deserve a music award? Probably not.
Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, and if so then I’ll apologize, but it seems to me the preponderance of awards shows, especially in the field of music, has become so numerous that it dilutes the value of all of them. Even the Grammy awards, which I still consider the best of the group, has lost some of its sparkle because, hey, if you didn’t win one of those then we’ll just for the next awards show and get you one then. If we’re going to bother giving out awards, they need to actually mean something. Otherwise, it’s just a group of musicians getting together, patting each other on the back, and exchanging tour dates. Those who genuinely enjoy music deserve more.
Music has a PR problem
I realize I’m reaching back before the dawn of time for some of you, but I remember watching two awards shows when I was a kid: the Grammys and the Oscars. Those were the big ones because my parents had made the decision that those two were culturally significant enough to justify my staying up past my bedtime to watch. The awards meant something, were reflective of our values as a society, and established a bar for the level of performance. Slowly, other awards shows started popping up, but I didn’t get to stay up late for those. My parents deemed them questionable both in terms of value and content.
Since then, the list has expanded even more, especially in the field of music. In addition to the Grammys and the AMAs, there are multiple MTV awards and people’s choice awards and country music awards and rock music awards and music video awards, and the list just keeps growing. Add in all the culture-specific awards shows and one could pretty much attend a music awards show every week, sometimes two. The number has exceeded any amount of reason. There is no requirement for quality in music for awards shows and many of the industry’s problems are reflective of that fact.
Of course, it doesn’t help a bit to have someone out there who goes on long rants then walks out on his own concert before canceling another. I don’t understand why anyone bothers to buy his concert tickets anymore. The industry also isn’t aided by excessive attention over performer’s personal lives rather than their music. Do we really need to know whom Taylor Swift is dating this week? Could Ariana Grande’s problems possibly stem from fans who can’t mind their own damn business and a media that encourages such invasion of personal lives? Surely, we would all do a lot better if we focused on the music and ignored those who only win because they have a huge Instagram following, Zayn.
Music With Meaning
Am I just an old man ranting about all this new-fangled music? I suppose that’s possible, to some extent. Although, I routinely surprise my 18-year-old when I know the words to more popular music than he does. My playlists regularly include Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Beyoncè, and Bruno Mars. I’ll even toss in some Taylor Swift and Adele every once in a while. I like to think that I’m not completely out of touch. Yet, when I look at the list of last night’s winners, I see a list divided between sentimental favorites (Prince’s Purple Rain for top soundtrack—didn’t we do that already?) and Instagram stars of questionable talent (explain, please, why only having one name is good, Zayn).
Granted, the AMAs have never been known for their quality picks. The awards program began in 1973 as an “alternative to the Grammys.” In other words, a group of people decided that they were tired of their favorite artists not getting awards (largely because their music sucked) and decided to go off and do their own thing. The modern version of the AMAs does the majority of its voting online. As a result, the winners are simply those who are most popular, not the ones who have presented the best music in the previous year. So, we get a former boy band member winning Best New Artist when The Chainsmokers and Shawn Mendes were obviously better (see, I actually listened to the music). All the nominees for Tour of the Year were old school (Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Beyoncè). One has to wonder whether those who voted Blake Shelton Best Male Country Artist really listened to his latest album or his marriage-busting relationship with Gwen Stefani.
Looking through the entire list of nominees, I don’t see anything that was actually good on the list. Why? Because all the good music at the moment is coming from independent and small-label artists who don’t get the airplay, or more importantly, don’t have the huge social media followings. You aren’t likely to see those folks at the awards shows.
Your Support Makes A Difference
Entertainment fields are unlike political elections where your vote doesn’t always seem to matter. You vote for movies and music with your wallet. What you buy, matters. What you watch, matters. If you’re buying CDs from a local band, it may not seem like much at the time, but trust me, someone notices. That $5 you just spent on music from your favorite local band is five dollars that didn’t make it into the hands of a major label and they’re watching every penny at this stage of the game.
The same applies to awards shows. If you want a local band to make it big, then they need a ton of support all across social media. We’re not just talking about liking their page or their Instagram account, but sharing songs and photos so that other people have a chance to become familiar with the band or singer. We are living in an age where it is entirely possible for unsigned talent to make it big. Follow them on YouTube. Share their videos. As the numbers grow, the people who run the record labels and awards shows begin to notice.
At the same time, if you’re as tired of the nonsense as I am, then there are some groups and individuals you need to avoid. For me, and this is a personal decision, Zayn falls into the same dumpster pile as that Bieber kid. I didn’t like the group he was in, I don’t like his solo work either. You create your own list. That’s how the system works.
The music industry exists to make money. From your local radio station to your Pandora and Spotify accounts, what matters is where you are spending your money. So, do us all a favor. Stop supporting the folks whose music requires 15 people to write and can’t be covered with a single microphone and a guitar. Stop supporting alleged artists who walk out on their own shows or cancel without good reason. Support artists who are passionate, who write songs you’ll still want to hear 30 years from now. Buy their stuff. Share their stuff.
And turn off the damn awards shows. They need to just go away.