Do We Still Need Award Shows?

By Juan Romero
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Yes. Award shows are needed – possibly more than ever. Let’s get on the same page before the comments about quality, entertainment value, and relevancy start pouring in. I’m not advocating for the existence of award shows on their merit or significance, but as necessary spectacles that celebrates the arts in pop-culture like a subjective sport with a mysterious scoring system that never fails to surprise. Every year we take a few days to discuss winners and losers, argue that our favorite artist was snubbed or defend their victories. Awards lead to opinions on art and that is worth saving.

Audience fragmentation grows with every new podcast, streaming platform, and social network. The ease of individual content curation leads to media consumption specifically tailored for the individual. Award shows encourage dialogue across fans of different genres as they are designed to appeal to broad audiences. Our favorite artists surprise, disappoint, or inspire in one night; providing plenty to discuss at happy-hour or enough for your favorite gossip podcast to keep your jog entertaining. Rare are the times (outside of every Trump tweet) where the masses tune into one event for a performance, an awkward Madonna speech, or to witness a social movement like #metoo get a boost from Oprah.

Award shows are far from celebrity free-speech and advocacy platforms, but they provide short relieve from the manicured, curated celebrity social media posts we’re inundated with. Award shows have become events we look to for a glimpse of our cultural leaders’ opinions, to catch a break from our curated timelines, and to find gems like Lil Uzi Vert discussing Pop-Tarts with E!’s Giuliana Rancic.

Award shows have always been flawed, art is subjected therefore assigning Best Album, Best Singer, Best… will never satisfy the viewer. The voters are out of touch, the mainstream fan is out of touch, young artists across sub-genres that are truly pushing pop-culture forward will likely never be recognized, some artists have started to opt out, and diversity continues to be an issue. So… why save the award show?

Discussion and debate of an art form in mainstream media is worth saving. Without post-award show discussions, conversations about music and film will be relegated to YouTube comments, Reddit, and podcasts. I want to debate why Anderson .Paak should have won “Best New Artist” over Chance the Rapper at the Grammys in 2017 and why I’m not mad Alessia Cara won “Best New Artist” in 2018. I enjoy watching every cable network analyze Kendrick Lamar’s 2018 Grammy performance, and like reading blogs hyper-analyze the various reasons why Adele was given “Album of the Year” over Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade.’

At worst, award shows leave you feeling disappointed but slightly snobbish because obviously, the voting academy is not nearly as in touch with that good music as you are. At their best they create dialogue and because your favorite artists won, you’re obviously in touch with that good music.

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