Few Grammy Awards have been as memorable as the 57th annual event. Tonight, Sam smith almost swept the general field, Kendrick Lamar won its first prizes and Sia delivered one of the most memorable Grammys performances of the 21st century. But more importantly, the 2015 ceremony is remembered for the latest award presented, which would prove not only controversial but, for many people, an illustration of some issues with the recording academy that did not. has only gotten worse since then. The night of the 57th Grammy Awards was defined by one big question: how Beck to beat Beyonce?
To understand Beck’s historic victory, we must first take a brief look at his previous work. Beck is known for making eclectic yet traditional alternative music. Her debut album, the folk “Golden Feelings”, did not receive much attention. It wasn’t until his third studio album, “Mellow Gold”, that Beck got his first Grammy nomination for the single “Loser”.
This nomination was followed by much more Grammy attention, including two nominations for Album of the Year (for “Odelay” in 1997 and “Midnite Vultures” in 2001), two Grammys for Best Alternative Music Album. (“Odelay” and “Mutations” in 2000), and a bunch of other appointments. However, with his 11th studio album, “Modern Guilt”, Beck’s pop-rock sound began to fade with the recording academy; although he’s still a consistent nominee, he stopped winning after that 2000 win for “Mutations”. Beck then took a break, doing a few side projects, as well as recovering from some health issues. Then, after almost six years of darkness, came âMorning Phaseâ.
âMorning Phaseâ received immediate acclaim, scoring an 81 on Metacritic. It was a throwback to Beck’s more folk side, and a more personal and understated record than his flamboyant pop / rock endeavors. The Guardian wrote: â[âMorning Phaseâ is] a slow, almost ethereal affair, far removed from his more exuberant records like “Odelay” or “Midnite Vultures”.
The album was also compared to his 2002 album âSea Change,â which had often been listed as one of his best works and a fan favorite. NPR even wrote that, “Although Morning Phase is not a direct sequel to ‘Sea Change,’ it shares many of the same themes and sounds: less spatial funk and more lush ballads, with rising orchestral parts.” The reviews were there for Beck, and his comeback story was strong, too. And, as we will see later with albums like Taylor Swift‘s “1989” and “Folklore”, the Grammys love it when artists change their formulas, especially if they take risks. So Beck was sure to win a prize or two, but how did he get into the general categories?
âMorning Phaseâ was nominated in a very competitive year. Eminemof “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”, Miranda Lambert‘s “Platinum”, Jack White‘s “Lazaretto,” Ariana Grande‘s “My everything” and Katy Perry‘S “prisms” were all ignored for the higher grade. Instead, the nominees were Beck, BeyoncÃ©’s eponymous album, Ed sheeran‘s “X”, Sam smith‘s “In the lonely hour”, and Pharrell williams‘s “Girl”. BeyoncÃ© and Smith seemed to be the favorites, with most people figuring it would finally be the time when BeyoncÃ© won the award.
âBeyonceâ was not only a huge commercial success, it also earned her the best career reviews. Smith didn’t have such rave reviews, but their album was a smash hit and very chatty with its sensitive adult-contemporary ballads. Prior to the grand prize, four of the five nominees had won awards. Smith won the Pop Vocal album for “Lonely Hour,” Recording and Song of the Year for “Stay with Me” and Best New Artist. Pharrell took home the award for Best Music Video and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Happy” and Best Progressive R&B Album, which was a huge shock for BeyoncÃ©. But the Queen herself took home the award for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for “Drunk in Love,” as well as Best Surround Sound Album. Finally, Beck won the award for best rock album and the all-important best engineering album.
Beck’s victory was likely the result of three factors. First, there was probably a significant split of votes. The R&B and hip-hop crowds may have been divided between BeyoncÃ© and Williams, especially as Williams beat favorite BeyoncÃ© in the R&B category. Sheeran and Smith, on the other hand, could have attracted the same type of singer-songwriter audience, which likely cost Smith the victory (I would place Smith as a likely finalist). It really helped Beck, who probably had his regular rock and alternative supporters, but who might also have gotten American and country cross votes.
The second thing that helped Beck was the gender bias. BeyoncÃ© was perhaps far too âurbanâ for the average Grammy voter, who often didn’t take R&B and hip-hop artists seriously enough. And perhaps they saw Sam Smith as a counterfeit Adele (a powerful British singer singing about sorrow). But above those two factors, Beck’s tale as a late underdog taking risks so late in his career has proven to be a success, and his stops on “SNL,” “Ellen” and more that. season have certainly helped his campaign.
While “Morning Phase” is admittedly an excellent record and one of the most inspired wins in Grammy history, it is important to recognize the prejudices that enabled it to win. We can celebrate that Beck is finally getting true Grammy recognition while discussing the Grammy’s continued loathing for urban music in general categories. “BeyoncÃ©” wasn’t Queen B’s first AOTY snub (and it wouldn’t be her last), and the record had an influence that neither “Morning Phase” nor any of the other nominees did.
Thus, “BeyoncÃ©” joined a list of classics that lost the top prize to lesser known albums. It is in good company though; records like Usher’s “Confessions” Amy winehouse‘s “Back to black”, and Radiohead‘S “In Rainbows” are a few that have lost out to veterans but have remained 21st century classics. And sure enough, BeyoncÃ© would end up being the most awarded female artist in Grammy history, so did she really lose?
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