You’d think when your award ceremony becomes so out of touch that your winners are forced to, quite embarrassingly, point out that they didn’t deserve to win (see Macklemore’s apology to Kendrick Lamar in 2014, Adele’s tribute to Beyoncé this year) you might have a good, long think about what your awards are honouring, what they stand for and how they figure in a rapidly changing industry. But the Grammys reliably disrespect achievements in music, serving little purpose other than to reflect record sales and congratulate the (usually white) artists who manage to appeal to the most demographics that year.
It’s become a very elaborate and expensive joke and the jig is well and truly up, with artists now starting to not even bother putting their albums up for Grammy consideration, so meaningless is the accolade. This is the correct response, and is why I was a little disheartened to see both Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar break their noble silences this week to comment on the day’s trending topic (which will have disappeared down the news feed well by tomorrow).
To their credit, both were reluctant to contribute to the conversation. Frank, who responded to a Grammys producer accusing him of sitting the ceremony out because of a previous performance of his that didn’t go well and segued into a take-down of the Grammys as a piece of television, prefaced his Tumblr note with: “As much as I hate to even respond,” while Kendrick’s “upset” over Beyoncé’s Lemonade losing out to Adele’s 25 was part of a private conversation recounted in a tweet by his label boss.
But there they still were, temporarily distracted from their creative focus and wasting synapses on an award ceremony that really doesn’t matter. Beyoncé won’t shed a tear about the snub, Lemonade won’t be judged as a lesser record by history because of it and, while it is certainly messed up that such a vast organisation is, time and time again, overlooking such, to quote reluctant victor Adele, “monumental” work by black artists, it’s better to meet it with a turned back and resolute heart than a jabbering mouth or frenetic fingers on a keyboard.
My hand fatiguing off the opus / Kept it underground I focus
Kendrick and, particularly, Frank’s determination to disengage from the collective conversation is one of the things I admire about them most, that they don’t concern themselves with showbiz/industry bullshit, and, if an event is important enough for them to speak on, they don’t tweet but bide their time and then deal with it in an artistic, nuanced fashion through their music. I daresay this morning that Frank kind of regrets being baited into writing a response rant to a 73-year-old guy named Ken, and K-Dot wishes Punch hadn’t tweeted his thoughts. It’s so rare and pure how they, for the most part, keep it so they are defined solely by their art, especially at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to do so.
When the world becomes distracted by a transient pop culture phenomenon or a rap beef or an archaic opinion, it’s their silence that cuts through the noise.