There are plenty of storylines coming out of last night’s Grammy awards, from the empowering performances by Lady Gaga and Kesha, to the frustration over a lack of female winners and the continued snub of hip-hop for the night’s top categories.
While the Grammys had a number of ascendent moments — Janelle Monae’s speech introducing Kesha was a standout — the show’s ratings were down a staggering 21% over last year, according to overnight numbers from Nielsen. While the Grammys could make up some slack once the full ratings numbers come in, there’s a good chance this year’s awards were the least watched in history.
Why? For one, it could have been the calendar — this year’s awards were held two weeks earlier than in previous years, partially to accommodate the schedule of host Madison Square Garden. And while some say political commentary hurt this year’s show (I doubt it), perhaps there’s an even simpler explanation for the ratings drop — there just weren’t that many good storylines this year.
Look at the Best Album category which many thought would either go to Jay-Z or Kendrick Lamar, prompting much hand-wringing when Bruno Mars’ predictable pop album 24K Magic won. Whether or not any of them deserved to win, most would admit Jay-Z versus Kendrick versus Bruno is a pretty weak storyline. And while most Amplify readers work in music and are familiar with both DAMN. and 4:44, it’s probably a safe bet that most Americans have not listened to either album at length. They’re both challenging records, and in Jay’s case, there were no radio singles. Yes, they’re critically acclaimed, but not that popular and by default, less people care.
All that said, I thought last night’s show was the best in terms of artistry and diversity of sounds. I’d much rather watch SZA, Khalid and Chris Stapleton than Nick Jonas and Justin Bieber. Perhaps therein lies the bigger question for the Grammys — do they emphasize artistry and take a ratings hit, or do they boost viewership by promoting more digestible pop and dance music? Who knows — and perhaps they have a little more time to figure it out because in 2019, they still have Taylor Swift to bank on. Drop in a new album by Beyonce or Adele and we’ll have another battle we can all talk about for the next year.
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