I’m about to make a statement that will make a lot of you irrationally angry. It’s the sort of declaration that people will remember me making and use it to question my tastes and abilities forever more. But it’s one that needs to be said:
Justin Bieber‘s Purpose deserves the Album of the Year Grammy.
If we were able to think rationally and examine this statement without our own feelings mucking things up then there’d be no argument. Of course, Bieber’s latest deserves Album of the Year. It’s wildly successful. It’s representative of the sound of pop radio in the last year, fully encapsulating many of our biggest trends like trop-house and the rise of dancehall-pop. And it comes with a “teen-pop star breaks away to make serious music” narrative that music types just love *winks at Justin Timberlake*.
I can feel you guys squirming at the idea. But you’re letting your own preconceived notions get in the way. There are plenty of reasons why Purpose definitely deserves to be this year’s big winner.
It’s A Massive Success
The Grammys are awards given out by the recording industry to celebrate excellence in the same. It’s one giant glitzy night for the music industry to pat itself on the back and pretend the whole thing isn’t crumbling around them. But if you’re the recording industry looking to celebrate success in 2016, you can’t find a much better option that Purpose. Adele‘s 25, Drake‘s Views and Beyonce‘s Lemonade may have more sales in 2016.
However,Adele albums as top-sellers might as well be baked into the formula at this point and Drake and Bey have the added advantage of releasing those albums in 2016. Bieber managed to hang around even though his album was released in November of last year, where it was the third-best selling album of the year, too — beat only by again, Adele, and Taylor Swift’s unstoppable 1989 crossover success.
In other areas, Purpose was smashing records. There’s the international success of the Purpose tour, and the fact that the album quickly broke first-week streaming records both domestically and globally, with streaming numbers at 77 and 205 million, respectfully. Oh, it’s also his fifth time releasing an album that’s sold over a million copies. It isn’t all cold, hard numbers and sales either though. Arts comes before Sciences in the Academy’s old name for a reason, after all, and Purpose deserves to be considered for Album of the Year because it was one of the best albums released in the last year.
They’re Just Great Tunes
One hit can be put down to a fluke or name recognition working its magic, but “Sorry“, “Love Yourself” and “What Do You Mean?” all managed to hit number one on the Billboard charts. And that’s because Bieber was onto something, creating genuinely great music.
On Purpose, Bieber proved that he’s an excellent curator and arbiter of what is new and upcoming — which is basically a pop star’s primary skill in 2016. He picked a slate of songs that work wonders with his vocals and cast a wide enough net to be on top of any radio trends that might bubble up. And, of course, we didn’t just decide to make these songs best-sellers. They’re beloved subgenres — like alt-R&B on “Company” and dancehall on “Sorry” — that have been distilled into their most pop-palatable form by a kid who knows what makes a hit.
The Bieber-ness Of It All
In fact, the only possible reason that can be formulated for not considering Biebz latest for Album of the Year is his general Beiber-ness. People could be simply too set in their way of thinking about Bieber to consider him as an artist. To many people, Bieber is still that slinger of wildly popular teeny-bopping tunes. He’s still the kid who sang “Baby” and not a pop artist coming into his own and creating interesting blends of pop music and popular world dance styles.
But even if that’s the case, you can’t say the Grammys haven’t ever recognized a teen pop star once they started to make slightly more art-inclined music. George Michael took a sharp left away from his Wham! past and landed a Grammy in 1989 for Faith. Just five years before that a former kid pop star won for an album you may have heard of called Thriller.
It could even be argued that the Grammys consider an artist’s past too much when it comes to handing out their top honor. Too often, they treat Album of the Year — whose grading rubric is right there in the title — as a lifetime achievement award. It’s that sort of thinking that led to Steely Dan beating out Eminem and Radiohead in 2001. And it showed up again when U2 beat Kanye West in 2006.
In fact, the ’00s have seen the AOTY used as a victory lap for a long career more often than not. In 2009, Robert Plant beat out Lil Wayne and Radiohead. A year before Herbie Hancock topped Kanye and Amy Winehouse. Do you really want to be on the same side of history as the folks who gave Daft Punk the award over Kendrick Lamar?
We know it’s hard to admit that as Justin Bieber has grown up, you’ve grown up too. You’re an adult now and so is he, so maybe it’s time to start showing him the proper respect as the artist he’s become. Search your heart and you’ll find it to be true, Purpose was the Album of the Year this year. Sorry, not sorry.