4 Examples of Why Popularity Does Not Equal Grammy Success


Watching an awards ceremony like the Grammys leads one to wonder, what will be the next big trend? Even celebrities speculate on the matter. During the 2013 Grammy Awards, recording artist and dancer Chris Brown weighed in on the topic, saying:

I’m hoping it’s just real music. A lot of the music nowadays—I love it—but it’s very gimmicky, even with mine. Some of my music is gimmicky, but I think I just want to go back to the real music…a lot of instruments, the real band essence of being able to perform and be an entertainer.

The Grammys have come a long way since Perry Como and Etta Fitzgerald received Best Male and Female awards back in 1959. The ceremonies have survived disco, punk, metal, grunge, techno, and a plethora of other music styles.

However some fans waste no time downing the contest. It seems the nominations are barely announced when people begin crying foul, accusing the awards committee of choosing safe picks who are more middle-of-the-road musicians than cutting edge artists.

Snubbed by the Statuette Committee

Just because a recording artist is popular in mainstream music does not guarantee them a Grammy. This is important because how a musician or other recording artist is received at the Grammys can have a staggering effect on their success.

Support for some artists, like Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers, helps boost sales of the artists’ work, while others get completely snubbed (Gangnam Style, anyone?). This could mean the difference in being labeled a wondrous success or a one hit wonder.

Speaking of being snubbed, the 2013 Grammys surprised artists and the audience alike by snubbing some of the most popular performing and recording audience during the previous year. Here are some examples of the ones I found most shocking:

  • Justin Bieber, who is popular enough to still make girls of all ages swoon despite multiple attempts to scandal the youth through rumors and false accusations, didn’t receive a single nomination.
  • OneDirection, the boy band for today’s generation, also found themselves shut out of the chance to take home a tiny gilded gramophone statuette despite the fact that one ticket to their concerts costs upwards of a couple of hundred dollars.
  • Pink may have been seeing green at the awards when her “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” was passed over for a nomination in favor of American Idol alum Kelly Clarkson, who earned 3 for her album “Stronger”.
  • Psy, the creative pop star behind the hit Gangnam Style, gained 1.5 billion hits on the YouTube video but lacked a Grammy nomination, proving without a doubt that the awards are not a popularity contest.

A Common Talent to Boost Popularity

Although only a small number of the general population around the world ever become famous, a great number of people spend part of their childhood learning to play some type of an instrument. One popular instrument is the piano.

The list of people who played piano as a child is not limited to musicians. Actors and actresses, politicians, and everyday people like you and I sat at the piano bench learning the importance of F.A.C.E. and why Every Good Boy Does Fine.

For example, actor Hugh Jackman studied piano for six years as a young man. While he ultimately chose acting as a career, he did pick piano back up to play flamboyant pianist Peter Allen in the Broadway production of The Boy from Oz during the autumn of 2003.

This proves that just because one gives up practicing, does not mean they will not pick it back up later on in their lifetime. Some people who dropped piano lessons during their youth find that piano lessons on DVD are a great way to re-familiarize with the skill and re-learn at their own pace.

Why Local Bands Don’t Get Grammys

I’m not saying that your town’s best cover band that plays every Saturday night at the local bar won’t ever get a Grammy award – I’m just saying it’s not very likely. The Recording Academy, the organization that votes on who wins these awards, chooses popular faces.

That’s because popular faces sell music. One blogger described it this way: The Recording Academy isn’t trying to award someone an achievement for one album or song, but for their whole career and their ability to sell more albums in the future.

Despite the few complaints about the Grammys and popularity, each of the past three years has found that the audience turning in to watch the ceremonies has grown from the one before. Obviously the Recording Academy is doing something right.

Author Byline: Freelance writer Sophie Evans works from home so she can spend more time with her son and daughter. But when she needs uninterrupted time to work, she leaves the kids with her husband Rick and heads to the nearest Starbucks to take advantage of the WiFi while satisfying her Frappuccino addiction. In her spare time Sophie enjoys yoga and knitting.

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2 thoughts on “4 Examples of Why Popularity Does Not Equal Grammy Success

  1. Some additional food for thought: NARAS is a popularity contest, but not in the way you think. All the voting members are part of a private social media network and anyone who can buddy up with enough of them could find their music listed as a Grammy nominee (see Linda Chorney’s recent nomination as a great example). But when you look at who DIDN’T get nominated in your list above, that’s because, quite frankly, for as popular as those folks are in mainstream, they are not popular (and may be downright annoying) to the voting members – many of whom are regular class folks like you and me, who might have an album or two under their belt, but not a lot of national recognition.

    When votes are cast for The Grammys, there are TWO rounds of voting for each category (usually), and the field is narrowed to the final list of nominees in the second round. The same people vote each time, so the more well known (and less annoying) you are to the voters, the more likely you are to make the cut.

    But here’s the kicker: members can’t vote in every category. They have a limited umber of categories (10, I believe at this writing), in which they can vote. The idea is to keep people from voting for a category they know nothing about (a zydeco musician voting for best rap album might not make sense), but each member gets to select which categories they vote in. So if a zydeco musician is very intimately connected to the rap world, it WOULD make sense for him to vote for a rap award, but probably not for a classical one. This also goes a long way towards preventing a tie. Since you can’t vote in every category (except the big 4 – everyone can vote for them, even if they’re not qualified), you really want to make your vote count.

    So in the first round, where more people are voting for you, there’s a better chance of making the nominating list (which is what happened for Chorney), but then, when it comes to the final voting, people have to be choosy. Thus, you may get the nom, but not the win.

    To make it even worse, the voting rules just changed, and categories can now be eliminated if there aren’t enough submissions for nomination. Which means, we could ultimately find ourselves with very little to vote for. Remember, the Disco category only lasted one season (and Gloria Gaynor’s version of “I Will Survive” took it) before NARAS did away with the category. Who knows what will happen next?

    It’s part of why The People’s Choice awards have become more recognized – because they more accurately reflect what the public wants, versus what a tight-knight group of industry insiders may come to enjoy.

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