Music’s “biggest night” continues to let viewers down

Words by Augusta Battoclette | Illustration by Maryrose Ceccarelli

It is no secret that the Grammys are controversial, with critics claiming they box black artists into the rap category and refuse to nominate women in the “big four” categories: album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist. 

This year, the show was filled with controversy, not only because many believed Billie Eilish should not have won so many awards, but because less than a month before the Grammys were set to air, the CEO of the Recording Academy was ousted from her position. Deborah Dugan was placed on administrative leave just 10 days before the ceremony after she claimed the awards show was rigged in many ways. Dugan mentioned how artists like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Mariah Carey and Frank Ocean have been snubbed in previous years, due to the Academy wanting the biggest awards to go to rock, country and pop artists.

The voting process sounds simple: every member of the Academy votes on submissions for the awards, then the top 20 entries are reviewed by smaller more specific committees dedicated to each category. Dugan claims this process is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to her, the committees favor artists they have special relationships with and “manipulate the nominations process” to include songs that Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich wants to be performed live during the show.

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Dugan says, “I’m saying that the system should be transparent and there are instances of conflicts of interest that have tainted the results.”

Dugan also accused the Academy’s lawyer, Joel Katz, of improperly propositioning her during a work dinner. 

“Under the guise of a work dinner, I was propositioned by the general counsel entertainment lawyer—an enormous power in the industry,” Dugan explained on GMA. “Starting with calling me ‘babe’ and telling me how attractive I was and how pretty I was. All the way through I felt like I was being tested. I feel that was a power-setting move as soon as I was coming onto the committee.”

This new controversy only adds to the dark clouds hovering over the Recording Academy. Former CEO Neil Portnow stepped down last year after he allegedly raped a recording artist and Academy member.

In the end, the Grammys are not indicative of the general public’s viewpoint anymore. Instead, the show has become a business opportunity for whichever artist can influence the most Academy members into voting for their work.

In 2018, Alessia Cara won Best New Artist and was the only woman to win an award during the televised part of the show. Lorde, a pop singer, was the only female nominated for Album of the Year that year. Ehrlich did not want her to perform that night. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study in 2018 that found only 9.3% of the nominees for the “big four” and Producer of the Year had been women since 2013. 

Music today is more diverse, creative and intersectional than ever before, and it will only continue to get even better. Yet, the Grammys are stuck in an antiquated and exclusionary mindset while struggling to stay culturally relevant. What does this tell us? The Recording Academy needs to do better.

Playlist: Teen Angst Tunes

Words by Augusta Battoclette / Cover Art by Sarah Riedlinger

“Canyon Moon” by Harry Styles

To start off a playlist with all my current favorite tunes, I included the best song off Harry Styles’ sophomore album. While others might opt to keep “Cherry” or “She” on repeat, my choice of poison is “Canyon Moon” because of its unique folk sound. None of the other songs on “Fine Line” have this same sound, which makes it stand out to me.

“SUGAR” by BROCKHAMPTON

If I am being completely honest, despite being fully aware of BROCKHAMPTON before hearing this song, the first time I heard this song was on TikTok. Featuring Ryan Beatty’s vocals, this song is the perfect thing to play when you are trying to lull yourself to sleep. Or you can listen to it on TikTok as you mindlessly scroll through videos for hours upon hours.

 “Fire, Ready, Aim” by Green Day

At first listen, this song might seem to be about the band’s political stances, but, while that may play a part, it is actually about the NHL. As funny as it sounds, Green Day recently entered into a partnership with the NHL and “Fire, Ready, Aim” is the opening theme song for NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey. Basically, this song combines my love for Green Day and hockey into one fiercely poetic jam.

“Dennis” by Roy Blair

This song is the perfect song for college students because Roy is struggling with maintaining relationships while coping with depression as his life is rapidly changing. He worries the person he is talking to will not stay long enough for him to get out of his depressive state. I love this song because it has a deep message hidden behind a pop-dance track.

“Coffee Talk” by Broadside

Taking it back to 2015 with this rock anthem, “Coffee Talk” is sort of the polar opposite of “Dennis.” With the crooning rock vocals of singer Oliver Baxxter, this song reflects on the best parts of relationships—“Lately, all I wanna do / Is lie around with you / And complain about the youth / How we’ll never leave your room /Tell me everything that bothers you.”

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” can be interpreted in many different ways, but I like to think of this song as a reminder that people grow apart and relationships change. While our careers and ambitions pull us away from the ones we love, we must either adapt to the change or fight back and write our own future.

“In Repeat” by Wanderwild

Wanderwild is a small indie rock band from Georgia that is carving out a new sound for themselves. “In Repeat” is the exact kind of song I imagine playing in an ‘80s coming-of-age film, and the guitar riffs make me want to jump on my bed like when I was a rowdy kid who did not want to go to sleep.

“Liability” by Lorde

This song is a soothing lullaby, perfect for playing at bedtime. It is no secret that Lorde is an amazing singer-songwriter, but this song really proved that “Melodrama,” could hold its own against her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” which was arguably one of the biggest generation-defining works of art.

“Dance, Baby!” by boy pablo

This song is about being lonely, and nothing in it is more telling than the line “Faking a smile now / Been here for a while now” which, if you listen closely, is a play on the part from Colbie Caillet’s “Bubbly”: ‘It starts in my toes and I crinkle my nose / Wherever it goes I always know / That you make me smile, please, stay for a while now.’

“I Wish” by Hayley Kiyoko

I will be the first to admit that I loved Hayley Kiyoko since she was in Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Lemonade Mouth,” but in the last couple of years, she has shown that she can also take over the music industry. Her latest album release, “I’m Too Sensitive For This Sh*t,” proves just that, and “I Wish” is the standout song in my eyes.

“Ain’t Together” by King Princess

Mikaela Straus, stage name King Princess, is no stranger to hit songs, as “1950” was played on the radio every day for weeks on end last summer. “Ain’t Together” is perfect for every situation. Straus says it herself, describing the song as “cute and sad, perfect for any occasion. Wedding, funeral, corporate function, lesbian séance.” Catch her opening for Harry Styles on the European leg of his world tour this summer (finally!).

“Hot Rod” by Dayglow

Dayglow is the product of 20-year-old Sloan Struble and, while Dayglow literally does not have a bad song, “Hot Rod” is by far my favorite. It is the perfect groovy indie song and radiates happiness, making you feel warm and fuzzy inside. That being said, it is very fitting that the album’s name is “Fuzzybrain.”

“Something For Your M.I.N.D” by Superorganism

Superorganism is a chill electronic DIY group, and this song is a trippy mashup of many different sounds. It is a fizzy and refreshingly futuristic take on electronic music. If this song is not your new favorite song now, I must be doing something wrong.

“Anarchist – Unplugged” by YUNGBLUD

YUNGBLUD is known for his intense, head-thrashing songs, but the unplugged versions offer a special look into the lyrics and the meaning behind the beat. Especially with the song “Anarchist,” the unplugged version gives you a look at how dangerous drug addiction is and how it makes you undeniably delirious. 

“play the part” by ROLE MODEL

This song talks about fake friends and not knowing whether people’s intentions toward you are good. Brooding singer-songwriter Tucker Pillsbury is a unique gem in the music industry, and his newest project “oh, how perfect” will inspire you to become the most honest version of yourself possible.

Louis Tomlinson proves he is a true artist in new single “Walls”

Louis Tomlinson first emerged into the public’s eye in the manufactured boyband One Direction. While all the members of the band contributed to writing various songs, Tomlinson wrote the ones with arguably the most poetic lyrics and best sentiments. Now, a couple of years into the band’s indefinite hiatus, he is gearing up to release his debut solo album, “Walls,” and the title track was released last week.

“Walls” starts with a classic piano/guitar combination and a retro vocal sound. As the chorus comes in the instruments swell into a rich orchestral sound. The elegant yet simplistic sound sneaks up on you while you are listening.

“It really hit home when I was in the studio to hear the strings being recorded,” Tomlinson said in a statement. “There must have been 25 musicians in there, all for my song. It was a proper tear-jerking moment already and I’ve never felt a shiver like it.”

Tomlinson has an array of different sounds and genres under his belt, which can be attributed to all the music he has released since One Direction went on hiatus. 

His first single “Just Hold On” came out in 2016 right around the time his mother passed away. 

“Back to You,” “Just Like You” and “Miss You” all came out in 2017. Another single, “Two of Us”, came out in 2019 right before one of his sisters also passed away, and “Kill My Mind,” “We Made It” and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” all came out in 2019 to promote the album. 

While “Walls” is a power ballad, “Kill My Mind” is a dynamic rock song, “We Made It” a tender indie number and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” an 80s pop-rock track.

Tomlinson’s lyrics are just as powerful as the music. The opening line in “Walls,” nothing wakes you up like waking up alone,” is a raw feeling that everyone can relate to sometimes. While the beginning of the song is quiet, the lyrics are melancholy, as Tomlinson is missing a person who left him behind. Then as the music picks up, the message does too: “These high walls, they came up short / Now I stand taller than them all / These high walls never broke my soul.” He is resilient and fighting through whatever life throws at him. The high walls are barriers in his life that were put up to stop him and make him lose hope, but his strength and love are enough to power through them.

Youtube: Louis Tomlinson VEVO

The song ends the same way it started, with “nothing wakes you up like waking up alone.” It highlights that allowing yourself to process all your emotions, the good and the bad, can help you make peace with your past and move forward. The message I got from the song is that it is far better to have loved and lost than to never have even tried to love.

Tomlinson is not just a performer or a singer. He is a songwriter, a lyricist and a poet. “Walls” only further proves my point, and I am beyond excited for the album to grace our ears.

Louis Tomlinson’s debut album is out January 31, 2020 and you can pre-order it here. Watch the music video for “Walls” now.