The GRAMMYs will announce their 2017 nominees on December 8, but there will be one glaring omission: Frank Ocean.
Yesterday, Billboard dropped the bombshell that neither Endless nor Blonde — the two albums Frank released in August — were submitted for consideration. Blonde was released on Frank’s own Boys Don’t Cry imprint after he pulled a fast one on Def Jam, which means Apple Music was responsible for many of the traditional label functions. However, it’s unclear whether the album not being submitted was an oversight, or intentional.
The real question is: does it even matter?
In 2016, the GRAMMYs are as irrelevant as they’ve ever been. Recent history has shown us that. In 2014, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist won Rap Album of the Year over what everyone will agree was actually the rap album of the year, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Even Macklemore himself knew it. A year later, Eminem scooped the same award for arguably the worst record of his career, The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
Then, in 2016, Taylor Swift beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness, amongst others, for Album of the Year. To Pimp a Butterfly topped almost every music publication’s End-of-Year list in 2015, while 1989 came in at No. 10 on Rolling Stone’s 2014 list, and No. 31 on Pitchfork’s. Go figure.
The GRAMMYs are decided by a committee of members who don’t always have a full grasp of the genre they’re voting for and often select the names they‘re most familiar with, regardless of the quality of work. Which is why Macklemore and Eminem and Taylor Swift win GRAMMYs. As Rob Kenner, a voting member of the Recording Academy, explained in 2014, “Bottom line: the vast majority of the nominations are chosen by people who have little real expertise in a given field.”
Frank Ocean won two GRAMMYs — and lost four, including Best New Artist to Fun. — in 2013, which certainly didn’t hurt his cause as a new artist. But in 2016, Frank is one of the most fascinating talents alive, and you get the feeling he isn’t too bothered about outside recognition.
This summer, Frank announced his return after a four-year hiatus by streaming himself building a staircase. He later released a 45-minute extended music video as his second major label album. And finally, he dropped Blonde, a challenging — yet massively rewarding — listen that lacks an obvious hit single and, for the most part, defies conventional song structure. Yet it still debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with the third largest sales week of 2016 and boasts an 87 rating on Metacritic.
There was no long-winded promotional campaign for his comeback, and there are currently no plans for a follow-up tour to drive sales; Frank Ocean said his piece and peaced out. His music connected — and still connects — with those it was meant to connect with, and his target audience hardly included a recording academy. If we don’t care about the GRAMMYs, then why should Frank?
Who knows if Blonde would have won a GRAMMY had it been submitted, anyway. The album most likely would have been up against Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Drake’s VIEWS and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo in at least one category, and we all know how that goes. Plus, what does “Urban Contemporary” even mean?! (Congrats to Bryson Tiller on the future win, though.)
In 2016, most people consume music through streaming, playlists determine popularity and albums can top the charts without a single physical sale. We decide the winners, not some clueless voting committee. Besides, talent always trumps trophies.
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram