Grammy nominations always feels like an annual excuse to groan and shake my head. Each time they’re announced, I grunt a little to my friends, but I generally think nothing of them. And I actually thought the award committee was making progress by nominating Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly for Album of the Year last year. But they inexorably let me down again when Taylor Swift’s middling 1989 won the ceremony’s ultimate prize. I expect nothing, and I’m still let down.
So why, when the nominations for the 2017 awards show were announced yesterday, did I get my hopes up? Why did I expect anything different would happen?
Because I thought the Recording Academy was simply just ignorant. They didn’t know any better than to allow Meghan Trainor to win an actual, real award for music. They hadn’t ever heard of Bon Iver before his self-titled album. They were just a little too dumb to recognize how wrong they were.
But then they announced their nominations for next year’s awards. And I only assumed David Bowie’s monumental Blackstar would be included on the list for Album of the Year. Not only was it an exceptional album by one of music’s immortal legends. Not only was it Bowie’s swansong, a collection of songs that gained a whole new meaning after his death two days after its release. Not only was it crafted by David fucking Bowie. But Blackstar was his only album to reach the top spot on Billboard 200! That’s what the Grammy Awards care about! I get why Mitski or James Blake or Danny Brown weren’t nominated, because they’ll never pack stadiums or release a hit (but you should all check out their new albums). I even get why Kanye’s divisive The Life of Pablo wasn’t nominated. But Blackstar was universally praised before and after Bowie’s death, it reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 and it was released by one of the industry’s most beloved figures. Whyyyyyy??
I say all this, and I realize I come across as hypocritical. Why do I care if Bowie is nominated if I don’t think the Grammy Awards mean anything? And I shouldn’t, but I do. Though, there is one important person who couldn’t bother to care less than he already does about this whole situation. And that’s David Bowie. He’s probably recording his next, transformative album in the afterlife as I’m right typing this. It’ll probably be awesome. And I can guarantee you it won’t be nominated for any Album of the Year Grammy Awards.