Sorry, Adele, but no Grammys for you this year
Adele’s “25” is smashing records left and right, up and down. It’s the fastest-selling album in history, a blockbuster the likes of which the music industry never thought it would see again.
Yet when Grammy nominations are announced Monday, Adele doesn’t stand a chance of getting her name called. Literally, not a chance: When “25” was released a week before Thanksgiving, it was two months after the deadline for consideration for the 2016 Grammys.
Sound boneheaded? It is. Now “25’s” Grammy triumph will have to wait until February 2017, a full 15 months after its release, because the Recording Academy doesn’t understand how calendars work.
Granted, the way the album is selling (and if sales of her last set are any indication), “25” may still be at or near the top of the charts by then. But Adele’s lack of a role in the upcoming Grammys highlights one of several major problems with the way music’s biggest night has been doing things for years. And with the show’s ratings taking a drubbing — last year’s telecast hit a six-year low — it’s time for the Grammys to rethink a few things to make them a stronger, more efficient and more relevant reflection of the best music has to offer.
First off, there are too many categories — a whopping 83 to be precise, including such headline-grabbers as Best Historical Album and Best Classical Compendium. (Most of them are handed out in a pre-televised ceremony that makes C-SPAN look as riveting as “The Walking Dead.”) This number is actually down from 110 categories a few years ago, but it’s still a few dozen too many.
Even in the big categories, there’s too much fat: Despite the number of times it’s explained that Record of the Year is an artist award and Song of the Year is for songwriters, it’s a confusing delineation that makes no sense to viewers.
And there’s an institutional out-of-touch-ness among voters that makes it possible for albums like Beck’s “Morning Phase,” objectively speaking Beck’s fifth or sixth best album, to win the Album of the Year award over Beyonce’s self-titled set.
But the easiest and most obvious fix is the date issue. Rather than Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, which is how most most citizens of Earth recognize a year, the Grammy calendar runs Oct. 1 until Sept. 30, which is one of the reasons their New Year’s Eve parties are always underattended. That means anything released after September 30 must wait until the following year to get nominated, and it’s why albums released during last year’s holiday season currently find themselves up for consideration.
So Taylor Swift’s “1989,” released in October 2014, will have a big showing when nominations are announced Monday. But Swift was nominated in two of the top categories at the Grammy ceremony held earlier this year, because “1989’s” lead single, “Shake It Off,” was released two months prior, in August 2014, thus qualifying it for the 2015 Grammys.
Got all that straight?
The problem is compounded by the record industry release schedule, which holds superstar releases until the traditional holiday shopping season. So aside from Adele, other artists whose 2015 albums will be in the ears of listeners, but ineligible at February’s ceremony, include Justin Bieber, One Direction, Carrie Underwood, Coldplay, R. Kelly, Eric Church and Grimes.
Hollywood does things a much simpler way. The Academy Awards recognize movies released during the calendar year with no schedule trickery. The system has created its own set of problems for the movie biz, with seemingly all movies of any artistic merit being held until the final weeks of the year (when they will be fresh in Oscar voters’ minds), but at least the movies are timely when they’re awarded, rather than being, in some cases, 16 months old.
The easy solution is to switch the Grammy year to match the calendar year, which would create a one-time 15-month window of eligibility, but would right itself afterward. The move would make more sense going forward for viewers and for artists, and would allow Adele to not have to wait so long to say “Hello” to her shiny new Grammy statues.
Now if Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” isn’t nominated for Album of the Year, that creates a whole new set of problems ...
58th Annual Grammy Awards
Feb. 16, 2016