Steve Stoute, a former music executive who is currently the CEO of a marketing firm called Translation, took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times in order to lambast last Sunday’s Grammys, in which, most notably, Justin Bieber was shut out and Arcade Fire beat favorites Eminem and Kanye West to Album of the Year. Naturally, the Huffington Post reprinted the entire thing. There are two problems with this: it’s hard for most people to give this message any consideration now that the show is gone from our lives for another 51 weeks. Second of all, if you have to pay someone to publish your op-ed…
This year’s Grammy Awards show was the highest-rated in a decade, and it’s this eyeball-seeking aspect of the show that Stoute has a big problem with. Too many of the performers last weekend also happened to win awards, Stoute points out, and it’s true. This was weird. But Stoute goes on to share his dismay that Esperanza Spalding, an arguable virtuoso of a bass player and singer, beat Justin Bieber to the Best New Artist, and then the letter descends into evermore niggling observations. Regarding Bieber, he writes:
…how is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist? Again, his cultural impact and success are even more quantifiable if you factor in his YouTube and Vevo viewership — the fact that he was a talent born entirely of the digital age whose story was crafted in the most humble method of being “discovered” purely for his singing ability (and it should be noted that Justin Bieber plays piano and guitar, as evidenced on his early viral videos).
I have no problem with Justin Bieber or his alleged stance on abortion, but Stoute is way off in saying that the above are reasons for Bieber to qualify for Best New Artist. Since when should the “quantifiable” aspects of an artist’s career have anything to do with the NARAS decision-making process? I’m sure they have, millions of times. But they shouldn’t. If Stoute is saying that the Grammy committee selected Spalding and Arcade Fire just to get people glued to their screens and talking for hours on end after the ceremony was over, he’s wrong. Both these things happened, but is it so hard to believe that the message might actually have been, “We want more of you to think the Grammys are relevant, so we’re going to start paying attention to some of the artists that you actually pay attention to”? This is a win-win situation for everyone, except for people like Stoute, who still believe that Eminem is making some of the best music in this country, and that having a good voice that you brandish in homemade YouTube videos, in parking lots, and on the country’s biggest stages is all of “what it means to be a modern artist.”