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.

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.