The Grammy Awards
On Sunday night, the music industry’s most momentous ceremony returns to New York City after ten years in Los Angeles. The 60th Grammy Awards will be held at Madison Square Garden and this year the pressure is on for the Recording Academy to prove that they are still relevant within the cultural zeitgeist. In 2016, Taylor Swift’s 1989 was awarded album of the year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The win prompted many, including Frank Ocean, to accuse The Academy of shutting out minorities. In a move that Ocean called his “Colin Kaepernick moment” he declined to submit his seminal sophomore album, Blonde, for 2017 consideration. This action was echoed by Drake who did not enter his immensely popular Views into the competition. A year later, at the 2017 ceremony, a collective “WTF!?” was felt across the music industry yet again when Album of the Year was awarded to Adele’s 25 (herself in disbelief) over Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
This year, everyone is wondering if the Recording Academy will finally give artists of color the credit they are due. Will trophy wins match the Billboard charts, which have have proven that we are living in the age of hip-hop and R&B? If the nominations are any indication, all signs point to yes. Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars are all up for album of the year (no rapper has ever won the honor). The last time that four non-white artists were included in this category was in 2005. However, we still have to ask, “Where the women at?” Lorde is the single female nominee in the group. In contrast, the 2018 Best New Artist selection bodes well for racial diversity and gender equality. SZA, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Alessia Cara, and Julia Michaels round out that category.
Gender Disparity In The Music Industry
A new study by USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism has confirmed something we already knew: women are vastly underrepresented in the music industry. To make its conclusion, the study analyzed the gender make-up of songwriters, performers, and producers of top-charting songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a five-year period. From 2012-2017, female songwriters counted for only 12.3 percent of those hits; 22.4 percent of the performers were women. The study found that different veins of gender inequality within the music industry are all linked. It’s a chain reaction – female artists tend to work with female songwriters more than male artists do. Less ladies on stage mean less ladies behind the lyrics. However, the biggest industry disparity is present in the recording studio. Only two-percent of producers credited for the Billboard hits were women. In other words, male producers outnumbered the ladies, forty-nine to one.
The Annenberg school is hoping that by highlighting these numbers, the music industry will be called to action and put hiring practices in place that are more beneficial to women.
RIP Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957 – January 24, 2018)
On Wednesday, post-punk legend Mark E. Smith passed away at the age of sixty. As lead singer and founder of The Fall, the Manchester musician was a complicated figure whose immense talent and vitriolic disposition simultaneously captivated and repelled his greatest collaborators & fans. Smith formed the Fall in 1976 after seeing the Sex Pistols in concert. Before his death, he churned out thirty-two records with a rotating cast of band members. Despite a lack of commercial success, the Fall proved to be a defining influence for future generations of punks and indie-rockers. The Fall’s last release New Facts Emerge came out last year.
According to Prince’s estate adviser, Troy Carter, the world will one day hear new music from the late musician. However, there’s no telling when the unreleased material will be available to the public as it is tied up in legal battles between record labels, Prince’s legal heirs, and his estate. Sir Elton John has announced that he will retire from touring but you still have several years to catch him on the road. The seventy-year-old Rocket Man will bid his farewell by playing three-hundred shows over the next three years. Two pop heavy-hitters gave us videos this week: Lady Gaga released the clip for a piano-centric version of “Joanne” while Justin Timberlake prompted Bon Iver comparisons (and insults) with “Say Something.” JT’s vid is produced and directed by La Blogothèque, the French collective best known for their YouTube performance series, the Take Away shows. The #MeToo movement is quickly making waves in music industry. This week, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and rapper Nelly were accused of sexual assault. Simmons has vehemently denied the accusations; Nelly has yet to make a statement.
The Misfits may be returning to NYC with their original lineup. On January 26, Live Nation tweeted “#ALLHELLSGONNABREAKLOOSE” accompanied by the iconic skull logo in the shape of New Jersey, the band’s home state. Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff paid tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan by releasing covers of The Cranberries’ hits “No Need To Argue” and “Zombie.” Due to overwhelming demand, indie darlings Haim have added a second Radio City date to their Sister Sister Sister tour. They also released a new video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This month has been great for new albums – Hollie Cook, No Age, and Ty Segall all released new material today. No Age will be playing in Brooklyn on May 2.