Commentary: The Grammy’s were a questionable but enjoyable celebration of music

Still of Taylor Swift after winning her Grammy and announcing the reales of her new album 'Dead Poets Society.' (Courtesy of the Grammys 2024)

From Taylor Swift announcing the release of her new album The Tortured Poets Department to Dua Lipa performing a mash-up of her upcoming song “Training Season” and “Houdini,” the 66th Annual Grammy Awards was an enjoyable celebration of music. 

This year’s Grammy’s will go down in history for breaking gender barriers in the music industry, with all the major categories being won by women. This was nice to hear since we just recently learned that Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie weren’t nominated for the Oscars for Barbie, while Robbie’s cos-star Ryan Gosling was. This nomination gave way to conversations about the gender discrepancies in media award nominations in the past few weeks.

The awards welcomed us with Trevor Noah hosting the awards, making friendly jokes about Taylor Swift in a way that contrasts Jo Koy’s Golden Globes comments. 

Related: Commentary: Jo Koy’s “jokes” represent a larger issue

Besides announcing her new album and taking home the Best Pop Vocal Album Award, Swift’s Midnights won Album of the Year, making her the only artist to win four times, above three-time winners Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra. She walked to accept her Best Album Award with Lana Del Rey who Swift deemed “A legend in her prime.”

The memoriam segment of the Grammy Awards this year was filled with light and colour, a very emotional experience. Fantasia Barrino performed “Proud Mary” in tribute to the late Tina Turner. This performance lifted everyone’s appreciation for Turner and her legacy in music.

I was happy to see Phoebe Bridgers get the most awards, with the artist winning three of them with boygenius, a supergroup made up of Bridgers and her friends, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, and one in collaboration with SZA. Talking about SZA, I also really loved the songs SZA performed, the choreography and the effort it may have taken to put on such a show.

Furthermore, artists try their best to use their mediums to express their feelings about social and political issues, and the Grammys aren’t an exception. Annie Lennox, Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” in Tribute to Sinéad O’Connor. Singer and political activist Annie Lennox topped off the performance with a lifted fist, teary eyes and a call for “Artists for ceasefire! Peace!” I was moved by this tribute to Sinéad because it reflected her relentless fight to use the platform you’re given wisely for awareness of different social issues.

“Not necessarily the awards but the artists themselves do like to use that soapbox, to try to influence public opinion, shift where the zeitgeist of the culture is particularly to social issues that need to be addressed,” said Communications and Public Policy professor, Jamie Gillies.

Here’s where the questionable starts for me. While the woman-dominated award winnings were recognized and appreciated, people on social media didn’t overlook the race differences in the Grammy’s won in the last few decades. No black woman has won in the Album of the Year category since Lauryn Hill won the award in 1999. This was especially noticeable from Jay Z’s ambiguous call out to the Grammy Awards for never giving Beyoncé this award. Jay Z questioned the legitimacy of the metrics through which the award judges select their winners.

“I always take that with a grain of salt but it’s not Album of the Year. It’s Album of the Year according to the music industry at that moment in time,” said Gillies.

There have been times when the awards given don’t reflect the significance of an album, as well as times when everyone agrees an album or song deserves it. Some albums become very successful in the next few decades and then we look back at how the Grammys overlooked them.

Having these issues in mind, we can still remember how the Grammy’s are supposed to be a celebration of music. While perhaps the legitimacy of who gets an award is questionable, a lot of people watch the show to see their favourite artist win anyway, right? Or even discover new artists.

Gillies highlighted how having a variety of categories for the awards opened many doors for artists who maybe don’t immerse themselves in the genres of the major categories. There are different Best Album of The Year awards which serve for the inclusion of new artists.

“You tune into the Grammys, and you see somebody and it’s just like, wow, where did this person come from? Where did this band come from?” said Gillies about seeing the new talent perform.

There is also a specific category for upcoming talents, Best New Artist, which Victoria Monét took alongside other two awards for her second album Jaguar II

The Grammys are as problematic as any other awards show in many ways, it’s not up to the public to choose who wins, but it is up to us to appreciate the artists we like as much as we can.

“The Grammys does a good job of showing us that when you do find something that you really love and treasure, it’s something that you not only have to hear, but [appreciate further].”

We should appreciate the artists that make us happy as much as we can, it’s the power that we have as media consumers.