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Grammy absences leave shadow on otherwise memorable show

Joe Meyerson, Staff Writer

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The 2017 Grammys came and went on the night of Sunday, Feb. 12. It featured a variety of highlights, including Adele’s performance honoring the late George Michael, Chance the Rapper’s three wins as an independent, streaming-based artist and a politically rousing set by A Tribe Called Quest. However, what may have stood out more than those who performed and won awards were the ones that didn’t attend at all.

Industry stalwarts Drake, Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Frank Ocean were not in attendance on Sunday night. Had it been a year when they were not up for any sort of nomination, this may not have been newsworthy. But Drake was nominated for eight awards, most notably his chart-topping “Views” for Album of the Year. Kanye West was up for six awards, with “The Life of Pablo” in the running for Best Rap Album. Bieber was nominated for four awards, including “Purpose” for Album of the Year. While Frank Ocean was not nominated for any awards, this was not due to a lack of quality music — his album “Blonde” was universally hailed as a masterpiece by his fellow artists and critics alike. However, he made a personal choice not to submit it for consideration.

So, what gives? Why were three of the music industry’s most prominent artists not at the industry’s premier award show?  While Drake was not in attendance due to a scheduling conflict with his European tour, West, Bieber and Ocean did not take part in the awards due to issues with the Recording Academy, the voting body behind the Grammy awards.

Interestingly, West’s absence may relate to Ocean’s lack of nominations. During a stop on his “Saint Pablo” tour, West stated, “I’ll tell you this right now: If his album is not nominated in no categories, I’m not showing up to the Grammys,” in reference to “Blonde.” While West may not have been fully informed of the situation regarding Ocean’s choice, a lack of nominations for his friend’s album is not the only problem he has voiced with the Academy. His rocky relationship with the award show is notorious, manifesting itself in instances such as his displeasure with Beck’s “Morning Phase” winning Album of the Year over Beyoncé’s “Beyoncé” in 2015.

Bieber has also reportedly expressed displeasure with the show. A TMZ report stated that he “doesn’t think the Grammys are relevant or representative, especially when it comes to young singers.”

However, Ocean’s comments on the Grammys may have been the harshest of them all. In an interview with The New York Times, Ocean said, “I think the infrastructure of the awarding system, the nomination system and screening system is dated.” It is for these reasons that Ocean did not submit “Blonde” for Grammy consideration. However, these remarks only scratched the surface. Recently, in response to negative comments by Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich about the 2013 performance of his song “Forrest Gump” on the show, Ocean released a scathing post on his Tumblr account.

Ocean criticized a variety of things about the show, such as the “CULTURAL BIAS AND GENERAL NERVE DAMAGE THE SHOW YOU PRODUCE SUFFERS FROM.” He also strongly opposed last year’s highly criticized Album of the Year result, which gave Taylor Swift’s “1989” the award over Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” That decision has a strong relation to the aforementioned “cultural bias,” due to the strongly racial and political content of “To Pimp a Butterfly” as opposed to the mostly light and substance-lacking work of “1989.”

When it was all said and done, the Grammys did just fine, regardless of who decided not to attend. However, it is still intriguing that lingering issues regarding the Grammys’ methods of operation have ostracized some of music’s biggest stars — the exact people that should be making Grammy memories of their own.

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The online student newspaper of Palisades Charter High School
Grammy absences leave shadow on otherwise memorable show