February 16, 2016


The GRAMMY Awards’ Most Easily Fixable Problem

Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Forget the awards outrage; the GRAMMY Awards are nothing if not predictable in the worthy artistry getting snubbed. Tuning into the GRAMMYs means you accept that the "wrong" person will win some (if not all) of the four major categories. For all the usual pomp and circumstance, however, the GRAMMYs were noticeably slipshod this year. Between Taylor Swift's underwhelming opening performance and Taylor Swift's anti-climactic Album of the Year win, there was a Rihanna last-minute cancellation, reported Lauryn Hill no-show and Miguel performance of a Michael Jackson song that was strangely cut off after about 45 seconds. Even the normally flawless Adele had sound issues.

But the most frustrating aspect of the 2016 GRAMMY Awards wasn't a technical mishap, the extended running time, the "wrong" winners winning or even the Hollywood Vampires, with its collection of aging rock icons haunting the final hour of the telecast. The GRAMMYs skewed old, but they always do; this year, however, the GRAMMYs felt out-of-date, as if the ceremony should have belonged to another year—specifically, 2015.

Meghan Trainor won the Best New Artist award 18 months after "All About That Bass" first charted. "Uptown Funk!" earned Record of the Year after initially being released in 2014. Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" was given Song of the Year after appearing on an album released in June 2014, and which was up for Album of the Year last year. Sheeran actually performed "Thinking Out Loud" at last year's ceremony!

Most glaringly, Swift's 1989 won Album of the Year after being released way back in October 2014. Because the GRAMMY eligibility period ends on September 30 each year, 1989 missed the cut for the 2015 ceremony by a few weeks. Look, 1989 is a decorated album with five Top 10 hits, but it's also 16 months old. For some perspective, Gone Girl was still in theaters when 1989 was released. Was February 2016 really the most fitting time to celebrate Swift's most recent album?

Because of the current eligibility period, albums released in the last quarter of 2015 were not able to compete this year, and will roll over to the 2017 ceremony. That means that Adele and Justin Bieber, who each performed on Monday night, will have to wait a full calendar year to bring 25 and Purpose, respectively, to the GRAMMYs. Both of those projects are already three months old. Now we have to wait another 12 months to see how they fare at the GRAMMYs, and if you are betting that 25 cleans up (as you should), that means you already know how next year’s GRAMMYs are going to turn out.

This isn't working anymore. The 2016 GRAMMY Awards underlined the fact that these rules have to be changed, so that we are honoring artists, songs and albums that don’t belong to the wrong year. The October 1-September 30 might have worked in years past in order to give listeners and GRAMMY voters enough time to fully digest a submitted project, but in this age of hot takery, it seems silly to cut off the 2015 eligibility at the end of September. We already know how we feel about Adele’s 25, and we did at the end of December. We don’t need another year to collectively agree that Bieber’s “Sorry” is awesome.

So let’s kick it Oscars-style: the GRAMMYs should have a January 1-December 31 eligibility period, with nominees announced in mid-January prior to a mid-February ceremony. That way we’re honoring the best projects of 2015, instead of the best projects of the last quarter of 2014 and the first three-quarters of 2015, in 2016. Next year can be the first year that this eligibility change is in place, so that the 2017 ceremony incorporates the last three months of 2015 and all of 2016. From then on, it’s just a calendar year. This really isn’t a difficult thing to tweak—LL Cool J can still host, John Legend can still perform every single year, and Kanye West can still rush the stage when Beyoncé is snubbed.

For years, Music’s Biggest Night has been Music’s Most Confusing Night. The GRAMMY Awards will never make total sense—see last night’s Album of the Year presentation for evidence—but it’s time that it makes slightly more sense.