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There are many awards given to artists, producers, songwriters, engineers and other talented people in the music industry. These honors may be across broad categories, or they may be specific to a certain type of music. Often, there are controversies over who receives what awards. For categories that are similar, there often are big differences on winners of a Grammy vs winners of a Billboard Music Award vs an American Music Award.
In my blog, I tend to focus on the Grammy award, as it historically was considered the most prodigious. That said, some people have lost confidence in the Grammy as a true indicator of excellence in music. Here are some of the most important awards in music.
The Three Major Music Awards
Grammy Award – first held in 1959, the trophy is a gold-plated replica of a gramophone, an early form of the phonograph. Members of the National Academy of Recording Artists nominate recordings for consideration, and lists are created for the nominees. Voting members then vote to determine the top five in each category. Then, a final vote is taken to determine the winner. The voting criteria is solely based on quality – no consideration is given to popularity, sales or chart performance. The Grammy is famous for its snubs. Most recently, in 2020 R&B artist The Weeknd received no nominations even though he had the most successful album of the year, with universal critical acclaim. For more on the Grammy award, see my post from March 7, 2021 on Grammy Trivia.
American Music Award – the award was created by Dick Clark in 1973, after the television network ABC lost its contract to televise the Grammy Awards. From 2005 and earlier, the awards were determined by members of the music industry, based on commercial success like airplay and sales. Since 2006, nominees are determined by sales, airplay, video activity and social media activity, and winners are determined by votes by the public on the AMA website. Currently, there are 29 award categories covering pop/rock, country, soul/R&B, Rap/Hip-Hop, seven “general” categories (for example, Artist of the Year, Favorite Music Video and Top Soundtrack) and five “other” categories (Latin, EDM, Adult Contemporary, Alternative and Contemporary Inspirational Artist). This award is basically a popularity contest. As of this writing, Taylor Swift has won the most AMAs with 32, followed by Michael Jackson with 26. The group with the most awards is Alabama, with 23.
Billboard Music Awards – The magazine Billboard held its first annual award ceremony in 1990. The awards are based on album and digital song sales, streaming activity, radio airplay, touring and social media activity. There are 60 categories, three of which are fan voted – Top Social Artist, Billboard Chart Achievement and Top Collaboration. There also are several special awards – Artist Achievement Award, Artist of the Decade, Millennium Award, Century Award, Icon Award, Spotlight Award and Change Maker Award – these awards often are not awarded every year. Currently, Drake has the most BMAs with 29, followed by Taylor Swift with 25. The 2021 BMAs were on May 23 – The Weeknd led all winners with 10 awards, including Top Artist.
Other Major Awards
There are many other awards ceremonies – in the U.S. alone, there are at least 25 more. Country music honors its artists in at least four ceremonies – Academy of Country Music Awards (ACM), American Country Awards, CMT Music Awards (CMT = Country Music Television) and Country Music Association Awards (CMA). Other well known awards ceremonies include iHeartRadio Music Awards, Latin Grammy Awards, MTV Music Video Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. And, there are awards in other areas that recognize music in some way – for example, the Oscars always has an award for best original score and best original song, and the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony always recognizes some artists in the music industry (the 2021 recipients included Garth Brooks, Joan Baez and violinist Midori).
My thoughts – Music award ceremonies have become nearly unwatchable to me. I think it’s great to recognize music artistry, but the televised ceremonies have become spectacles of non-stop gyration with way too much focus on hip-hop music. The Grammy awards in particular irk me. After taking heat from the public and the artists for years about how stodgy they were, about ten years ago they tried to compensate by putting on an outrageous program which they have continued ever since. And…they still can’t seem to get it right. Every year, there seems to be a headscratcher. This year’s snub of The Weeknd was preposterous – not even a single nomination! In 1970, the Best Album award was given to Blood, Sweat & Tears – the losers included the Beatles’ Abbey Road, Johnny Cash’s At San Quentin and Crosby Stills & Nash’s self titled album – seriously! In 1984, the Police’s Every Breath You Take beat out both Beat It and Billie Jean by Michael Jackson for Best Song. And the following year, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down beat out Prince’s Purple Rain and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A for Best Album. How stupid is that! Last one (of many) – the 2011 Best New Artist Award winner was Esperanza Spalding. The losers – Drake, Justin Bieber, Mumford & Sons and Florence and the Machine. C’mon…..
Maybe it will soften the blow for The Weeknd if I recognize him as a deserving winner of a Grammy here on my blog! He has already gone on record as saying that he will boycott future ceremonies. Here is his video for Blinding Lights, the winner of the Billboard Top Hot 100 Song, Top R&B Song and Top Radio Song at the 2021 ceremony.