The 65th Annual Grammy Awards: A Retrospective


Alfie Sansom (he/him) discusses the key events of the award show, and the state of the Grammys as a whole

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Image by Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee

By Alfie Sansom

My favourite musician is better than your favourite musician. I’m not bothered if your favourite musician has a wider range, a more eclectic set of influences or a more coherent sound throughout their work. I couldn’t care less if they have a better back catalogue, or more No.1s, or a prettier frontman. Better vocalist, better instrumentation, better songs? Too bad. If they haven’t won a GRAMMY, chosen by a handful of musicians, producers and sound engineers, then I’d rather if you would stop speaking. It is the “single most coveted accolade in music”, hoping to “recognise excellence” in the recording arts industry. It just so happens that such excellence is usually in the Billboard Top 10.

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards are no different, securely recognizing excellence throughout the diverse landscape of the music industry. There were star-studded performances by all-time greats, such as Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow and Public Enemy, as well as those by nominated acts, like Jay-Z, Lizzo and Brandi Carlile. Actor Harry Styles won Album of the Year with Harry’s House, an award that, as he put it himself, “doesn’t happen to people like [him] very often”. This is presumably because no other winner has had the surname Styles or was born on a Tuesday, and certainly not because he won the award given to only two non-white musicians since 2009. Other wins for the ‘excellence’ brigade include ‘team Terf’ member Dave Chappelle winning Best Comedy Album, beating out nominated Louis C.K. (who admitted to sexual misconduct), and NARAS National Trustee, John Legend, receiving three nominations from his own board for a DJ Khaled song.

There were other equally excellent events throughout the course of the night. Actor Harry Styles had trouble with his performance of ‘As It Was’ after his turntable spun the wrong way, leading to him stumbling off towards his band. Randy Rainbow struggled to pronounce the winner of Best Video Game Soundtrack, insulting every dead Viking stuck in ‘V’laha’ by pronouncing Assassins Creed Valhalla as such. But, thankfully, Dr. Dre won the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, as though it would go to anyone else.

On a less sarcastic note, there were many positive happenings at the ceremony. Beyoncé not only became the most nominated artist in the history of the awards, but also the most decorated, claiming her 88th nomination and 32nd win to tie with Jay-Z and surpass Georg Solti respectively. Viola Davis reached EGOT status, topping off her impressive resume of a Primetime Emmy, an Oscar and two Tony Awards with a GRAMMY for her audiobook, Finding Me. New categories were introduced, with Best Spoken Word Poetry Album and the snappy Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media helping to diversify the ceremony. Overall, it wasn’t a total self-congratulatory sham.

In recent years, the Grammys have made small but progressive steps. In 2021, NARAS (the body which oversees the ceremony) removed ‘secret’ voting committees, who got a final say over nominations in certain categories. They also changed the name of their ‘Urban’ categories, a vague nothingness of an adjective which Tyler, the Creator called a ‘backhanded compliment’, while two years prior, Childish Gambino became the first hip-hop artist to win Record of the Year and Song of the Year with ‘This Is America’. Clearly, the ceremony is heading in a decent direction, becoming more diverse and inclusive as the years drag by.

But is the general public becoming tired of these award shows? The 65th Annual Grammy Awards was the third lowest viewed in the award’s history, while the 2022 Oscars had their second lowest viewing figures, and the Emmys had their worst year yet. Nor is it difficult to understand: why watch three and a half hours of mediocre performances and uninteresting presenters when it takes a few minutes to check Twitter for the results? Social media, as it usually does, has gutted the mystery and exclusivity of the award show, with no one scared to miss out on the live broadcast due to the safety net of a constant social feed.

Have they become redundant, then? Despite the diminishing returns in the eyes of the American broadcasters, these award shows still spark conversation, drive the record sales of the nominated records and hold the place of an institution in the culture of music. The live show may falter, but the ceremony itself succeeds as a celebration, a talking point. Hopefully, next time they will nominate fewer creepy comedians and more artists outside of the Top 40.