We’re now on the third day since the 2015 Grammy Awards aired, and Grammy-related stories are still dominating the music conversation. Kanye, Beck, and Taylor Swift are probably trending stories in your various newsfeeds, and viewership is being analyzed. Electronic music didn’t do too bad with the much-respected Aphex Twin winning “Best Dance/Electronic album” and Tiësto grabbing the “Best Remixed Recording, Non Classical” award in a suave all-black Euro look. The late “Godfather of House Music,” Frankie Knuckles, was briefly honored alongside artists like Tommy Ramone, Bobby Womack, Maya Angelou, and A$AP Yam during the “In Memoriam” segment.
Unfortunately, Zhu did not reveal his true identity.
But just underneath the mainstream chatter and controversy about whether or not Beck really did deserve that “Album of the Year” win over Beyonce, lies a minor controversy developing in the world of electronic music as to whether or not the genre is receiving the respect it deserves. The night of the awards saw the usual as-it-breaks triumphant headlines from genre sites like Dancing Astronaut and Mixmag, but the hungover day after saw hand-wringing from thump and Magnetic, with headlines like “Frankie Knuckles Honored by the Grammys as Dance Music Gets Brushed Aside,” and “EDM Finds No Place At Grammy Awards.”
The primary grievance seems to be the fact that presentations for the three major electronic music related categories were not televised. The second seems to be that there just isn’t enough dance music featured in the event period. Here’s thump:
For any creative endeavor, competition is an ancillary if not silly post-facto part of the process. Still, as members of an audience, we enjoy the narrative aspect of award shows; in the end, there will be a winner. It compels us to watch, thus empowering the platform of the show and the value of its massive audience that much more. Having artists and music we care about in the race affirms our participation. At the Grammys, dance and electronic artists are still treated like background performers. Anybody who saw Tiësto in his Balmain suit or Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne give their acceptance speech would have no concerns about these artists fitting in amid the pop and rock stars of primetime.
While the 2015 Sam Smith Awards (previously known as the Grammy Awards) dished out a ton of gold to a somewhat controversial artist, EDM remained largely in the shadows…
It’s not just that the awards have no intention on going hard, they seemed totally removed from the times. The “best dance recording” went to Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” which is apparently dance music because it has a four-to-the-floor kick drum. Not to be confused with the trap-infused hip hop in Katy Perry’s “pop performance.” And certainly not to be confused with Miley Cyrus’ “pop vocals” on “Bangerz.”
I get it. It really sucks to see your favorite genre relegated to the unwatched and uncelebrated dark recesses of the world’s most fabulous dog and pony show. It sucks to see artists like Duke Dumont lose out to a candy house remix by flash-in-the-pan acts like Clean Bandit. It does. It’s especially tough to digest after an amazing year like 2014 in which Daft Punk dominated the Grammys, winning four total awards, two of them the prestige type: “Album of the Year” and “Record of the Year.”
I think we got a little spoiled.
Grammy voters are a fickle bunch and, like thump points out, the show itself is “in a constant battle for [its] own relevance.” This means that unless something has what a bunch of stodgy industry types see as mainstream appeal, it ain’t gonna make the show. That’s just the game. Our disco forefathers were more or less ignored until 1978 when the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack won “Album of the Year,” A Taste of Honey was recognized as “Best New Artist,” and Earth Wind & Fire picked up three trophies. Sure, Donna Summer won in 1979 as “Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female” for Last Dance, and there was one “Best Disco Recording” presentation in 1980. One. Donna Summer won that too.
But from 1981 to 1997–nearly 20 years–dance music was officially left out in the cold. Through the birth of new wave, techno, house, and trip hop, electronic music received no formal recognition from the Grammys. Then in 1998 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences decided to establish the “Best Dance Recording” award. Believe it or not, Donna Summer picked up that too. Other winners since 1998? Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and Baha Men. Seriously. Dirty Vegas, Skrillex, The Chemical Brothers, and Zedd have grabbed some awards but this is the Grammys. Any nod to the underground is always going to be forced and contrived.
It’s important to remember that the great Daft Punk domination of 2014 would never have happened if it were just Daft Punk. The duo may have been long overdue for the recognition, but without the pop star power of Pharrell Williams, already a multiple Grammy award winner himself, and the involvement of Giorgio Moroder, another multiple Grammy winner, they most likely never would have made a chart-busting anthem like Lucky, and therefore never would have been invited to the show.
Enough context. The fact that we now enjoy the luxury of three specifically dance-related categories is in and of itself a victory for electronic music. That we saw Frankie Knuckles receive a tribute, EDM-borne artist Sam Smith clean up with four awards, Madonna perform a Diplo-produced (and unmistakably electronic) track in front of millions, followed by Sia telling the world she’s gonna swing from the chandeliers is just icing on the cake.
Besides, this is our genre. Let’s enjoy the exclusivity. And you know what? Even hip hop was pushed to the back this year; awards for that category were not televised either.
We really don’t have it that bad.