The Grammys and Pitchfork: don’t wanna fight no more
Last Tuesday, after the Grammy night, I read a lot of negative comments about Taylor Swift winning the “Best Album of the Year” award, instead of Kendrick Lamar. I recalled last year’s edition, when Beck stole the award and Grammy groupies all over the world started yelling about it. Who the hell is Beck, right? A loser might be a great answer, but he was a winner and that pissed Kanye West off. Forget about your music taste. The Grammys aren’t about your music taste, they are about the industry even if this industry is changing. In recent years, they made some questionable choices in the eyes of their fans. Just recall Arcade Fire in 2011. One thing is very clear: this year they didn’t try anything unusual on the major categories and that’s why we are so surprised Kendrick Lamar wasn’t unanimously the king of the night — in fact he but only because he did this. He should be undisputed winner, right? Right, but these are the Grammys. Again: forget about your music taste. Taylor Swift owns this industry.
On the Grammys opposite side is Pitchfork, your music taste barometer, the greatest music webzine on earth. The most influential music taster on the planet, in fact. You’ve already made a visit to pitchfork.com earlier today, right? You probably have one or two or ten Pitchfork tabs open right now. Google an album and tell me if the Pitchfork review isn’t the first result. They’re that powerful.
They’re not as different as we might think. They are ruled by the idea that they create tendencies. They choose their ambassadors. Pitchfork went mainstream with Arcade Fire, remember? A Grammys ceremony and a Best New Album. Both sell lots of album copies.
This 4 round battle shows how the nominations can match both critics and commercial success. They only disagree on the winner. The industry is still stronger. The 4 rounds are based on the most important Grammy awards: “Record of the Year”, “Album of the Year”, “Best New Artist” and “Best Solo Performance”.
Round 1, “Record of the Year”: “Uptown Funk” (Mark Ronson + Bruno Mars) vs “Alright” (Kendrick Lamar)
What does the numbers say about “Uptown Funk”?
It owns 1.377.071.387 views on YouTube. Only in the U.S. it sold more than 6.100.000 copies.
What does Pitchfork say about “Alright”?
Best song of the year.
And the Grammy went to…: “Uptown Funk”
Round 2, “Album of the Year”: “1989” (Taylor Swift) Vs “How To Pimp a Butterfly” (Kendrick Lamar)
What do the numbers say about “1989”?
“1989” is an incredible worldwide commercial success. 1.287.000 copies during the first week in the U.S. “1989” broke Swift’s own records and became the 19th album to sell over 1 million copies in a single week”. It was responsible for the highest sales week since 2002’s “The Eminem Show” week. She became the first artist to release three albums that sold one million in a single week.
What does Pitchfork say about “How To Pimp a Butterfly”?
The Best Album of the Year and a Best New Album review. “It’s an album by the greatest rapper of his generation, where his rap skills are perhaps the least noteworthy talking point.”
And the Grammy went to…: “1989”
Round 3, “Best New Artist”: Meghan Trainor Vs Courtney Barnett
What the numbers say about Meghan Trainor?
Her last album, “Title”, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 replacing… Taylor Swift’s “1989”. It sold 238 000 on the first week.
What Pichfork says about Courtney Barnett?
9th best album of the year and a Best New Album review.
And the Grammy went to…: “Meghan Trainor”
Round 4, “Best Solo Performance”: “Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran) Vs “Can’t Feel My Face” (Weeknd)
What the numbers say about “Thinking Out Loud”?
971.272.241 views on YouTube, 52 straight weeks, yes, an entire year on the U.K. top 40. It sold more than 1 800 000 copies.
What Pichfork says about “Can’t Feel My Face”
12th song of the year.
And the Grammy went to…: “Thinking Out Loud”
Don’t Wanna Fight No More
But this gets more interesting. The Grammys and Pitchfork, they did converge on something: the surprising Alabama Shakes took three awards. “Sound & Color” sold less than a million copies and didn’t get to the Pitchfork Top 50 albums of the year list, but scored an 8.1 review. They get good reviews and don’t sell that much. So, why are Alabama Shakes one of the Grammys biggest winners? Because they’re American and play American style? Because they’re young? ’Cause they’ve had good but not awesome reviews? I think Grammys are trying to reach its balance since 2011, the year Arcade Fire made it. They tried with Arcade Fire and Beck and they kinda failed. They did it this year with Kendrick Lamar and it only failed at the moment of truth. They played it safe with Taylor Swift. Alabama Shakes are a safe choice too. Winning some minor categories made them one of the greatest Grammy winners. It will make them bigger and maybe the future lies here, in a balance between critical and commercial success.