This past Sunday night, the Grammy Awards, also proclaimed “biggest night in music,” took over your local CBS channel to bring you appearances and performances from some of the most well-known musicians and music personalities in the world. This award show always seems to stand out a little more than some of the others of the season due to the bile that is typically generated from the social media sites. It was one particular instance of this that caught my attention Monday morning where it occurred to me where the issue for people lies.
Music, unlike film, television, or even stage productions, is a completely and wholly personal thing. Literally millions of artists are out there the in the world trying to get their music heard and attempting to make a living at performing. It is only the lucky few that ever achieve that goal on a global scale, but that doesn’t stop people from trying each and every day while still succeeding to make even a modest living at the craft. From those millions of performers, we, as listeners, absorb the music that calls to us and appeals to us personally in some way. For me, a song with a beautiful lyrical story, creative and well performed vocal harmonies, a screaming horn section, or a funky rhythm section are my instant draws.
So when I see people upset that their favorite artist didn’t win a Grammy, which, while a wonderful recognition for creating something great, has no real bearing on the actual reception of the music with the listeners of the world because only a finite group are allowed to vote on the matter, all I want to do is to teach them to listen without bias. Taking a song for its pure value of songwriting, engineering, and performance isn’t easy because we, as humans, innately have a preference for what we like listening to. Certain sounds are just more pleasing to each of us, so we have difficulty separating from that in order to listen to a song purely for what it provides.
There are songs that I have listened to once where I found something completely beautiful that makes me sit up and take notice, yet will never listen to it again. It could have been a use of an engineering element or a counter melody in an instrument not typically associated with it where that catches my ear, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the rest of the track. I might like the track for what the artist and production team have created, but it wasn’t something I connected with and enjoyed.
In an award show like the Grammy Awards, categories have to be created to classify similar types of music so the comparison of what’s taking place in each genre can be consistent while also have cross-genre categories at the end of the night for things like “Best New Artist” or “Album of the Year.” In those instances, if you don’t connect with the artist or the style of music you are obviously going to be upset, particularly if someone you do enjoy lost, but to throw the ire around because you didn’t enjoy the music seems just a shame to me.
One doesn’t have to enjoy something to recognize that it has brilliance. The closest comparison would be the periods of artwork. Many people enjoy art, but not in all its forms. Some things just speak to them and engage them in the experience than others and, as such, they are drawn to a particular style of artwork. That personal preference with music causes many people to be extremely defensive due to the intense emotional connection that many get with their favorite songs or musicians.
The fact is that when someone is nominated for a Grammy, it is assumed it’s because their work is at the upper echelon of the industry – and it is their peers that have put them there. That is why I encourage everyone, regardless of your personal preferences, to listen to all music with the intent of hearing the quality of performance, the story of the songwriting, or the skill in the production. There is brilliant work in the world that goes beyond your selected fandoms, just because you don’t enjoy it doesn’t make it any less so.