Every year, the Grammys award the biggest and best hits of the year while celebrating past icons. At Sunday’s 54th annual show, Adele swept several of the top awards, artists of previous eras came back to perform, and all mourned the loss of pop queen Whitney Houston. We asked Emily Cassel, a journalism and music industry student and editor-in-chief of the student-run Tastemakers Magazine, how well the Grammys did in honoring Houston while handing out awards that highlight the changes occurring in the music industry.
How do you think the Grammys handled Whitney Houston’s untimely passing?
The news of Whitney Houston’s passing the night before the Grammys cast a bit of a shadow over the show. She’s a legend, and although she went through a lot of turmoil in her private life over the years she will certainly be missed.
I thought the tribute by Jennifer Hudson was perfect — simple, elegant and tasteful. Hudson’s voice was flawless, and her rendition of Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was extremely moving.
What do this year’s nominees tell us about the changing music industry? For example, a DJ was nominated for best new artist for the first time in Grammy history.
Last night’s nominees and performers demonstrated the increasing popularity of electronica and dubstep Not only was dubstep artist Skrillex nominated for five awards, but DJ David Guetta and electro-house producer Deadmau5 also performed.
I think this shows that the industry is finally taking dance and electronic music seriously. It’s not just something kids listen to in clubs anymore, but a style of music that’s taken the world by storm and has really become commercially viable. I don’t think anything displays that better than watching a rock-and-roll icon like Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl getting down to some Deadmau5 at the Grammys.
Some of the artists nominated for top honors — such as record of the year and best pop vocal album — have had considerable Top 40 success, but critically have received mixed reviews. Should popularity be heavily factored into nominations, or should lesser known artists be given a fair shot?
As the editor-in-chief of a magazine with fairly indie tendencies (and having relatively indie tendencies myself), I would definitely like to see some of the incredibly talented but more obscure musicians that are out there get their shot at a Grammy. And I think that sometimes the voters do support lesser-known artists; for example, last night Bon Iver took home the Best New Artist Grammy.
However, I also think that featuring popular, commercially successful artists is a large part of what makes the Grammys the Grammys. People aren’t going to tune in to the show if they haven’t heard of any of the artists who were nominated or scheduled to perform. There are other award shows — mtvU’s Woodie Awards, for example — that give smaller artists a chance to shine.