Yesterday TMZ reported that Kanye West, Drake, and Justin Bieber will not attend the Grammys. Drake is on tour and while it’s possible to tweak the schedule for him to get to LA and then head back to Europe, I’m not convinced his reason aligns with JB’s, as TMZ is suggesting. Kanye has struggled with mental health issues the last few months. So there is a strong possibility that should he not attend, it could be that he’s focusing on self-care.
Let’s then focus on JB. Because TMZ specifically notes that he’s not going because “he just doesn't think the Grammys are relevant or representative, especially when it comes to young singers”. Is it? Is that really the reason?
JB just won his first Grammy last year, for Where Are U Now. In the past, he told Oprah how much he wanted a Grammy. And when he wasn’t nominated for any Grammys in 2012, he and Scooter Braun moaned and groaned about how unfair it was:
second....this time there wont be any wise words, no excuses, I just plain DISAGREE. The kid deserved it. Grammy board u blew it on this one— Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) December 6, 2012
Now that he actually has one… and he thinks the Grammys are irrelevant…is he going to give it back? F-ck no.
Justin Bieber is nominated for a Grammy because he submitted for consideration. Frank Ocean is not nominated for any Grammys for his wonderful album Blonde because he decided, well before, that he did not want to be included. He withheld his work from submission. THAT is how you back up your sh-t when you say you don’t think the Grammys are relevant. You don’t participate in the process…AT ALL. Not at the beginning, not in the middle, but before the process even begins. The minute you enter the process? Please. You’re in.
Declaring after the fact that it’s meaningless, in JB’s case then, is not actually about believing that it’s meaningless but, maybe, pouting out because he won’t win. These Grammys are about two people: Beyoncé and Adele. In the Album of the Year category, the most prestigious category, JB is nominated alongside Beyoncé, Adele, Drake, and Sturgill Simpson. He doesn’t have a f-cking chance. A few years from now, when he comes out with his alleged opus, and he’s the favourite going into the Grammys, you think he’ll skip the Grammys and call them irrelevant? Come on.
Apart from Justin Bieber’s self-serving perspective though, there is a conversation to be had about Grammy relevance. And to be sure, there’s argument that the Grammys are NOT the standard. Queen has never won a Grammy, only a Lifetime Achievement. Same goes for Bob Marley. And Patti Smith has never won a Grammy, any Grammy. Run DMC has only won Hall of Fame Grammys. I say “only” here to distinguish between when their work was current – and unrecognised. There’s a long, LONG list of more artists in the same position. So, OF COURSE, the Grammys aren’t perfect. And they get it wrong – often.
I keep thinking about Constance Wu and what she tweeted last week in response to Casey Affleck’s Oscar nomination:
“Awards do exist to honour all that art is trying to accomplish in life.”
For better or worse, the Grammys are the most well-known, arguably well-established awards for music. And this year, at the Grammys, Beyoncé’s Lemonade has been nominated for the most Grammys. Yes, I am an annoying Beyoncé stan. But this is about more than Beyoncé. It’s about what Lemonade is – a love letter to women, specifically black women. Further Solange’s album, A Seat At The Table, was nominated for Best R&B Performance – her first nomination ever. A Seat At The Table is a love letter to the black experience. Again, I could list many more nominees for whom the awards would “honour all that art is trying to accomplish in life”.
So I’m not sure writing off the Grammys is the answer. Demanding improvement? Certainly. Pushing for new voices? Of course. But is that what Justin Bieber is doing? Beyond communicating through his favourite website, TMZ, that he’s skipping the Grammys because they’re “not relevant”, what has Justin Bieber done, how has he advocated for improvement and new voices? Suddenly he’s a crusader?
Attached - Justin Bieber at Catch in LA on the weekend.