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Grammys 2024: Reflection of Profitability or Recognition of Artistry?

The 2024 Grammys were everything they should be: glamorous, monumental, and of course, controversial.

Taylor Swift has made history by becoming the first artist to win Album of the Year four times, this year for her tenth studio album Midnights. She additionally took home the prize for Best Pop Vocal Album, her acceptance of which she took as an opportunity to announce her upcoming album – The Tortured Poets Department. In an attempt to recreate the mid-award show frenzy of the 2022 VMAs (when she announced Midnights), Swift further proved her love for dramatics, and shock-factor. Her wins may come as a surprise in such competitive categories, beating out the still Grammy-less Lana Del Ray; but what should not come as a surprise is that she is not coming down from her current state of success anytime soon.

Miley Cyrus took home Record of the Year, and Best Solo Pop Performance – for her astronomically popular Flowers, while Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell took home Best Song – for their Barbie Movie theme What Was I Made For? Completing the ‘big four’ was Victoria Monét, who bagged Best New Artist, alongside Best R&B Album for Jaguar II.

SZA, despite missing out on the ‘big four’, had a successful night: Snooze won Best R&B Song, and her collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers Ghost in the Machine won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, or Boygenius as they are collectively known, swept the pre-show – winning Best Alternative Album for The Record, and Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for their album’s lead single – Not Strong Enough. Paramore bagged Best Alternative Music Performance, and Best Rock Album for This is Why.

Tyla won Best African Music Performance for Water, and Kylie Minogue bagged Best Pop Dance Recording for Padam Padam. Best R&B Performance went to Coco Jones for ICU, and Best Rap Song was awarded to Killer Mike for Michael.

Jack Antonoff went for a personal hattrick, winning Producer of the Year (non-classical), for the third year in a row. He is working at an unprecedented pace and is solidifying himself as a tenet of the industry: producing both Lana Del Ray’s Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, and Taylor Swift’s Midnights. Speaking of these two artists, a cringeworthy – (or endearing) – moment arose when Taylor dragged Lana onto the stage when she went to accept the award for Album of the Year (despite the fact Lana Del Ray lost to Swift): she proceeded to call Lana Del Ray a ‘trailblazer’, and ‘legacy artist’, praising her for the impact she has had on Taylor personally and on the music industry. Fans across the internet are furiously disappointed by Del Ray’s not picking up an award – for any of her seven nominations. As one of the few artists who has a cult following similar to that of Taylor Swift, the persistent lack of recognition that Del Ray has faced raises questions concerning the Grammys’ position in working to support the commercialisation of music.

Taylor Swift is a publicity machine, becoming a billionaire during her immensely successful Eras Tour, and so her wins do not come as a surprise considering her popularity and marketability. Fairness and awards for creative arts are intrinsically antithetical; yet the role a Grammy plays in solidifying a musician’s career is undeniable. Even if the academy considered Midnights as warranting recognition over Lana Del Rey’s album, does the work of Lana Del Rey as a ‘trailblazer’ (in her opponent’s words no less), not deserve to culminate in a Grammy? I use the word ‘opponent’ ironically, as this kind of debate is a symptom of the way ‘stan culture’, strengthened through social media, has exacerbated the pre-existing narrative of female artists as enemies.

The 2024 Grammys were an excellent year for women – especially queer women. Phoebe Bridgers, when interviewed backstage with her bandmates Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, celebrated this success: in response to the former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow telling reporters in 2018 that women needed ‘to step up’ to win more Grammys, Bridgers said when he dies, to ‘rot in piss’.  Baker chimed in calling her ‘pretty rock-and-roll’ – a fitting description considering the band’s sweeping success that night of the rock category.

This ceremony saw artists of colour, queer artists, and female artists come to the forefront, recognising the fundamental importance and power that these individuals have in the music industry. It felt unpredictable and dynamic, providing satisfaction and disappointment, and begged questions about the music industry going forward: do the Grammys merely reflect what is popular and profitable, or does it recognise artistry and originality? It seems it does both simultaneously.

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