At age 18, most kids are thinking about who to ask to prom or planning their grad parties.
At age 18, Billie Eilish is basking in the glory of winning five Grammy awards and becoming the first woman to sweep the “Big Four” (Album, Record, and Song of the Year, plus Best New Artist).
The 2020 Grammy Awards, which took place in the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 26, were graced with stunning performances from the likes of Lil Nas X and Lizzo, and marred by the tragic death of basketball icon Kobe Bryant earlier that day. But the talking point of the event was Eilish’s sweep — and Grammy voters’ snub of the multitude of other young, talented, diverse artists.
It was evident even to viewers at home that popular music had an objectively good year. The performance of “Old Town Road” blew the roof off of the Staples Center, featuring not only Lil Nas X but also K-pop group BTS, American DJ Diplo and everyone’s favorite tiny yodeler, Mason Ramsey, among others. Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts” mashup, though a little musically shaky, wowed the crowd. So many artists of color and LGBTQ artists owned the stage on Sunday night, and yet, it was a straight white woman who “won” this year’s Grammys.
This is not to say that Eilish didn’t deserve some praise. Her genre-bending 2019 release “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is universally appreciated by fans young and old. But Eilish herself seemed to realize that nominees like “Cuz I Love You,” Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and “Hard Place” by H.E.R. deserved some recognition, mouthing “Please, don’t be me,” before accepting Album of the Year.
This supposed snub of other artists follows a recent scandal within the Recording Academy, the organization behind the awards, regarding sexual misconduct and other forms of corruption. Many critics feel that the Grammys have become tired, old and corrupt, and refuse to celebrate diverse content.
“The Grammys are so much more concerned with giving washed-up celebrities with very little real musical ability a five-minute run back to the limelight than highlighting actual good music,” said MU freshman Joe Hutchison after watching Sunday’s three-and-a-half-hour broadcast.
It certainly seemed that way when Aerosmith and Run-DMC took the stage to perform “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Walk This Way,” which were rife with tone-deaf screams and Steven Tyler’s dated fashion. Retiring Grammys coordinator Kenneth Ehrlich also organized a performance in honor of himself, a song from the musical “Fame” with performers Cyndi Lauper, Gary Clark Jr. and Misty Copeland among others. The whole scene felt contrived and self-important and wasn’t what the Grammys needed as we enter a new decade of music.
Redeeming qualities of the night included Tyler, The Creator’s win for Best Rap Album with “IGOR,” Lizzo’s three gramophone wins, and an emotional performance from Demi Lovato. However, by the end of the ceremony around 10:30 p.m., viewers were exhausted and didn’t hesitate to voice their annoyance with the awards on Twitter.
It remains to be seen whether the Recording Academy will transition into the 2020s with the rest of the music industry, or if they will get wrapped up in controversy and lose the Grammys’ place as one of the biggest awards ceremonies ever. The 2020 Grammys certainly failed to make that impression.