Highlights and shortcomings of the 2024 Grammy Awards

Calls for ceasefire, hollering at hypocrisy, and first wins were features of this years event

Taylor Swift became the first person to win "Album of the Year" four times at the Grammy Awards. (Claudia Culley)

Taylor Swift became the first person to win “Album of the Year” four times at the Grammy Awards. (Claudia Culley)

The 66th Grammy Awards unfurled according to plan on Sunday, even as record-breaking rainstorms brewed outside. Yet, the very seamlessness of the event, broadcasted live from downtown Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena, revealed its inherent challenge.

In contrast to previous years’ noticeable flubs and impassioned outbursts, this year’s ceremony felt almost scripted, with performances by Dua Lipa, SZA, and Travis Scott proceeding without a hitch. 

Trevor Noah, helming the emcee role for the fourth time, appeared to have honed his routine to a fine art, rendering the once-unpredictable comedian remarkably predictable. As anticipated, Taylor Swift clinched “Album of the Year,” and made history to be the first performer to win the award four times, surpassing records previously held by luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.

While some might raise eyebrows at Swift’s win, conjecturing about clandestine machinations, it seems quite ridiculous to cast blame on external entities she’s been affiliated with like the Pentagon or the National Football League (NFL). Instead, the flaws of the 2024 Grammys lay squarely at the feet of the Recording Academy, which, in its penchant for the safe and familiar, left little room for surprises, both in performances and victors.

Though the evening boasted a handful of standout moments — Jay-Z’s resonant speech, Joni Mitchell’s inaugural performance, Miley Cyrus’ first win (which is baffling to say the least), and Annie Lennox’s call for a ceasefire in Palestine — the overall proceedings lacked the spontaneity and verve that defined previous iterations. 

Gone were the rambling speeches, flawed production concepts, and poignant political interjections that once infused the event with palpable energy. Previous Grammys were marked by moments of rebellion and impulsiveness, qualities sorely missed in this year’s edition.

In a moment that resonated across the music industry, Jay-Z took centre stage at the Grammy Awards to confront a glaring discrepancy within the Recording Academy’s legacy — Beyoncé’s conspicuous absence from the winners’ circle for “Album of the Year.”

Despite boasting an illustrious career with 32 Grammy wins, Beyoncé has never secured the coveted accolade. Jay-Z, while accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, pointedly said, “Even by your own metrics, that doesn’t work.” His words sparked a wave of reflection, amplifying discussions on social media platforms.

Beyoncé’s five nominations for “Album of the Year,” from I Am… Sasha Fierce in 2010 to her latest work, Renaissance, in 2023, underscore this glaring oversight. Each album, including the seminal Lemonade, exuded cultural resonance and musical brilliance, delving into themes of infidelity, racial inequality, and generational pain. Despite her unparalleled influence across genres and mediums, the spotlight often eluded her, with Swift’s Midnights clinching the coveted award.

The dominance of white artists like Swift in mainstream music prompts questions about diversity and representation. While statistics reveal skewed demographics favouring white artists, Beyoncé’s music transcends racial and cultural boundaries, resonating deeply with diverse audiences. Yet, barriers persist, reflecting systemic issues within the music industry.

Swift’s win for “Album of the Year,” while expected, underscored the event’s predictability. Before the evening concluded and upon receiving the Grammy for best pop vocal album for Midnights, Swift revealed plans to unveil her upcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department, scheduled for release on April 19.

Jay-Z’s critique of the academy’s historical bias against Black artists and women cut through the orchestrated affair. Female nominees injected excitement, yet failed to infuse the telecast with the dynamism of music’s future. The absence of spontaneity left the broadcast feeling uninspired. 

The preponderance of female nominees in major categories, many of whom hailed from diverse backgrounds, injected a palpable sense of excitement into the proceedings. Yet, this promising diversity failed to translate into a dynamic telecast. 

Despite moments of earnestness and authenticity — such as Mitchell’s haunting performance and Billy Joel’s triumphant return to the stage — the overall presentation fell short of capturing the vibrant essence of music’s future.

Ultimately, the Grammys this year left much to be desired, with a longing for the chaotic energy and untamed passion that once defined music’s most celebrated night. Amidst polished performances, the essence of music’s rebellious spirit seemed conspicuously absent, highlighting the need for reflection and reform within the industry.