But really, why should Kanye West be the only person on earth who doesn’t get to complain about the Grammys? Awards shows exist to fail us. We watch a fancy trade association refuse to validate our tastes in music so we can spar dimly over abstract notions of justice in the morning. What, after all, could it possibly mean to “deserve a Grammy?” Kanye’s recourse to vague criteria like “artistry” is no sillier that the all-about-the-music crowd’s inane contention that Beyoncé has 26 producers too many to constitute true art.
And yet, a nation coiled in seething pre-rage was never delivered the Iggy Azalea win we thirstily dreaded, and instead we spent the night punching marshmallows. Sam Smith’s clear adoration for Mary J. Blige is just one of many things about him more likeable than his music. Ranting against his victories is like getting all up in the face of the winner of a cute puppy contest and screaming “You are NOT the cutest puppy!”
Whatever your Facebook feed tells you, Kanye wasn’t the big story last night, nor was Beck, who hasn’t made a great record since he lost Album of the Year to the best Steely Dan record since Aja. We were witnesses to history: This was a coming-out party for Young-Adult Contemporary, with Smith and Hozier and Ed Sheeran spearheading enough of a sales trend that Ariana, Katy, and Adam and Gwen all sang deep-cut ballads rather than sexier singles. How do you satisfy all niches of an audience with a 17 to 70 age spread? Let hot (and Ed) young (and Gwen) people (and Hozier) sing it out big and dull and slow.
As for Kanye, I’d rather he bumrushed Ryan Tedder to defend De La Soul’s honor when the OneRepublican shouted out Flo and Eddie for their tireless work as copyright trolls. (Given Smith’s recent run-in with Tom Petty’s lawyers, this was kind of a funny year for Neil Portnow to claim that you can’t have Best New Artists without a strict IP law.) And as for Bey, I’m not thrilled that Mahalia became the latest great African-American singer to be assimilated into her hive-brand. The tendency of 21st century megacelebrity to subsume all cultural predecessors unto itself is bigger than the Grammys, bigger even (if you can imagine such a thing) than Beyoncé herself. But Bey’s willingness to stand forth as Representative Black Woman is not good for us or for her. If Beyoncé needs any saving at all, it’s from herself.