The 2017 Grammys came and went and — outside of James Corden’s telegraphed punchlines and Carpool Karaoke schtick — we can say it honestly wasn’t that bad. Music’s biggest night managed not to be actively terrible, which is more than we can say for many previous 3+ hour slogs.
With that being said, everybody knows that some incorrect choices were made and the entirety of the viewing audience certainly felt the ceremony’s runtime by the time the show wrapped up. It’s our job here to cover it and it still felt like an endurance test by the end. What I’m saying is, the Grammys weren’t bad but they definitely could have been better and there’s simple fixes that the producers could implement to make next year’s ceremony greater than the one that came before it.
To put it in producer-speak, we have some notes.
Liven It Up
Barring a national tragedy the day before the Grammys, the show should never start on a downbeat song. Look to the Oscars for inspiration. In 2015, it kicked off with a massive musical number lampooning everybody in the room. These weren’t even music people and they absolutely killed the Grammys at their own game.
The night is meant to be a celebration and — all due respect to Adele — a call to a long-lost ex on a darkened stage doesn’t exactly set the laudatory mood. Move Bruno Mars up to bat lead-off next time and get folks excited about the idea of being here for the next few hours.
Go Easy On The Tributes
Listen, we know that people love tributes. People like being reminded of the things they like. It’s human nature. But did we really need Demi Lovato and co. singing songs from a John Travolta movie? Did we really need to hear a tribute to the very much still alive Lionel Richie at last year’s show? Save the career retrospectives for people who have actually passed away.
And, again, make it lively. No one expected the George Michael tribute to turn out the way it did. While it was wonderful, heartfelt and more than a little chaotic, can we honestly say we wanted it over a big blowout version of “Freedom ’90” or something closer to the insanely fun Prince tribute?
Open Up The Eligibility
The Grammys took a big step forward this year when they realized that they could no longer deny Chance The Rapper, opening up eligibility so that his streaming-only album Coloring Book could be nominated. But now that Chance is in the house, he’s trying to leave the door propped open for everyone to come in behind him. He’s pushed for the inclusion of Soundcloud uploads both outside of the ceremony and in his own acceptance speeches. And you know something? He’s right.
Not only would the inclusion of other platforms open up the Grammys to a much wider swath of hip-hop, tossing something like Bandcamp into the mix might go a bit of the way toward fixing the Grammys’ rock music blind spot. Let’s hope entries like a live performance of a cover on a late-night talk show (???) head out into the wilderness never find their way in again.
Give More Time To More Artists
The biggest and best moments of this year’s ceremony came when an artist was given full control to slather the Grammy stage in their own personal aesthetic. Beyonce translated years of empowered rhetoric into a massive meditation on the Feminine Divine, all why showcasing her very pregnant belly. When given the chance, Chance The Rapper brought his unique and joyous idea of church to the show, complete with a world-famous choir.
Watching them, it’s clear that these performances came from the artist up, they were fully-formed ideas about how they wanted the music to be presented. These moments are more memorable because the artists care deeply about showcasing their work in exactly the way we want it to be seen. We expect that kind of freedom for a Beyonce-level star, but the show should give more time over to more artists, even if they aren’t the Queen. Even if they can’t pull off the scale of Beyonce’s goddess spectacle, the results are sure to stick in viewers’ brains.
Respect Black Artistry
This one’s the least show-related and also, seemingly, the hardest note for the Grammys to take. Plenty of folks were skeptical when Kanye West called out the Grammys over snubbing Beyonce after using her performances as a draw to the ceremony. But after this year’s outcome — and the awards show’s terrible historical record with regards to black artists — there can be no doubt about what the Grammys need to do.
When the actual Album of the Year winner is snapping her award in half in protest, when many of the world’s biggest music stars aren’t even in attendance because of the Grammys history of overlooking them, then it’s clear that the Grammys must take steps and examine their own prejudices if they want to remain relevant.