Grammys Screw Up Again; Deny To Pimp A Butterfly Album Of The Year Crown

I didn’t wanna write this article, for many reasons.

For one, I hoped the voters for the Grammys would bail me out this past Monday night, get their heads straight, and actually give the award for Album Of The Year to a proper nominee.

Wishful thinking, clearly.

But on a more realistic and, personally for me, tangible level, I didn’t wanna get upset over the eventual victory for Taylor Swift’s 1989 over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. I didn’t wanna waste my time. “The Grammys always pull this shit, Brendan,” I told myself. “Don’t get your hopes up. If they’ve screwed it up before, they’ll screw it up again. Don’t. Get. Angry.”

Yet as the ol’ saying goes, talk is cheap. Not getting fed up with the Grammys is muuuuuch easier said than done for your boy.

When Taylor Swift did a terrible job of pretending to be excited after winning her second Album Of The Year award in her career and when she did that horrendous prepared handshake with Jack Antonoff (robbed of attention, never mind a Grammy nod, for “Rollercoaster,” but maybe that’s what he gets for dating the bag of milk known as Lena Dunham), my heart sank.


Relax Cynthia. You made a bland-ass album made for the lowest common denominator full of songs that made anyone with a brain want to bang their head through a wall after the 463,645,757,142nd time it was played on the radio. And yes, that does include the KDot version of “Bad Blood” (guess it can’t all be hits for the king).

Now don’t get me wrong: TayTay has some jams… ones that were released prior to like 2011, but hey, jams nevertheless. “Hey Stephen” will forever and always (pun not originally intended, but now intended) be a not-so-guilty-pleasure of mine, and Fearless was genuinely a terrific album, one worthy of the AOTY award it got. Her self titled debut and Speak Now ain’t too bad either. Red has a good song or two, but wasn’t really for me.

And I’ll give her this much: she straight up said that 1989 was gonna be an all-pop album, one that was completely different from her roots. I can always respect an artist’s decision to bring something new to the table, as long as it isn’t obnoxious. I’ve always heralded Coldplay, for example, as a group that changes up what they do with every individual effort.

1989‘s obnoxious, though.

First off, it’s just not good pop. I get what she was trying to do with the 80’s pop, but it doesn’t translate whatsoever. We’re just gonna pretend that songs like “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood,” “Blank Space,” or “Style” are actually good musically? Full of substance? Layered? Worth listening to more than once?

No. It’s the sum of the typical radio hit/Grammy bait formula: songs that will please the lowest common denominator for a two minute car drive, but provide nothing past that. We’re all prone to surrendering to at least some of those songs, and if Taylor wants to go in that direction, then by all means do it gurl. If you like that kind of music then maybe you and I just have different tastes in music, but please, for the love of Wily Mo, don’t try and pass off this vanilla record as something worthy of the title of Album Of The Year. That title should celebrate musical mastery and originality and not something that’s been done to a T by countless predecessors.

What’s even more frustrating than the musical elements that won 1989 AOTY are the lyrical elements. The Taylor Swift that we all fell in love with way back when, the one that embraced being yourself and loving one another for what they are is now alllllllllllllll about materialism now since it fits her newfound (read: fake) image. That’s clear if you compare the lyrics between “You Belong With Me” and “Style.”

But she wears short skirts
I wear T-shirts
She’s cheer captain
And I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up
And find that what you’re looking for has been here the whole time
If you can see I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see
You belong with me
You belong with me
You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
‘Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style
You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt
And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
‘Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style.
And yeah, “Shake It Off” has a message of embracing yourself, but I can’t take it seriously when you’re just tryna shake it towards the guy with the “hella good hair” and when its paired with a bunch of other crap songs about her love life and relationships and blah blah blah.
But To Pimp A Butterfly……..
To Pimp A Butterfly is the exact opposite.
Going into the night, you had to think that the hip-hop genre being represented in the AOTY race would scare off voters. It’s happened before, and it will almost certainly happen again in the future.
And yes, this is pure, unfiltered rap music. Certainly not some “Whip/Nae Nae” booty, but hip-hop spanning several generations, both musically and lyrically.
The beats, melodies, and production of Kendrick Lamar’s album are a fusion of what allows him to utilize his West Coast flow so beautifully in his rhymes in the modern era and the roots of hip-hop itself. Jazz, boom-bap, funk, and spoken word are all found in this album, and those elements–for better or for worse–are the foundation of rap as we currently know it. From the bitchin’ beats in “Wesley’s Theory,” “i,” and “King Kunta” to the more mellow and somber melodies in “How Much A Dollar Cost,” “Hood Politics,” and “Momma,” To Pimp A Butterfly acts as a beautiful musical canvas that is layered.
I keep saying that word; layered. To elaborate, Butterfly provides a far more extensive replay value than any other album eligible for AOTY in 2016. The album has been out since March of last year, and yet every single time I play it from start to finish (happens a lot)  I pick up on something new in it. A backing vocal here, a new jazz element there, whatever. Almost 12 months later, I still haven’t discovered everything this album brought to the table, and to be fair I’m sure I’m totally not alone on that. With 1989, you listen to it once or twice and say, “Yeah, I get it. I get the gist of it.”
And lyrically, To Pimp A Butterfly just completely and utterly smashes 1989. That should be expected, since it’s rap vs. pop, but God KDot went in on this project. For comparison purposes, here’s “u vs. “Out Of The Woods.”
I place blame when you steal
Place shame when you steal
Feel like you ain’t shit
Feel like you don’t feel, confidence in yourself
Breakin’ on marble floors
Watchin’ anonymous strangers tellin’ me that I’m yours
But you ain’t shit I’m convinced your talent’s nothin’ special
What can I blame him for God gave him several
Situation had stopped with your little sister bakin’
A baby inside, just a teenager where’s your patience
What’s your intentions where is the influence you speak of
You preached in front of 100,000 but never reached her
I fuckin’ tell you, you fuckin’ failure you ain’t no leader
I never liked you, forever despise you I don’t need you
The world don’t need you, don’t let them deceive you
Numbers lie too, fuck your pride too, that’s for dedication
Thought money would change you, made you more complacent
I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it
And I remember thinking
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet, good.
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet, good.
Are we out of the woods?
If you think that’s an unequal comparison, well, it’s not in an objective sense; both songs have 18 lines selected. 18 for Kendrick, 18 for Taylor. Again, it’s rap vs. pop so not as much lyrical content can fit into a Taylor song, but anyone who says 1989 can hold a candle to TPAB lyrically must be certifiably insane. What’s deeper and more lyrically powerful and original: a song about self-hatred, substance abuse, suicide, and the whole nine yards, or a cookie-cutter love song?
And the thing with Butterfly is that it also has songs that expand past that subject! The very next song after “u” is “Alright,” which lost to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” for Song Of The Year (best song lyrically basically is how I’ve identified that award) on Monday. That song, along with tunes like “i” are about embracing yourself and people around you for who you are in the midst of the things in life that bring us down.
So many topics are touched upon in the lyrics and all revolve around each other: self-love, self-hatred, social issues (no matter how you feel about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Kendrick paints an accurate and explicit portrait of the life of a young black man in America), depression, escaping the streets, anger, discrimination, personal issues, optimism, the hope for a better society, and the whole shabangabang. Yeah, it’s about 80 minutes long, but the album is so packed with great material on an abundance of different levels that it makes you want to come back for more.
What do all those things create? An incredibly brave album. To Pimp A Butterfly is a wonderful mixture of outstanding musical and lyrical creation, one that cannot be compared to anything else in the modern music industry. It’s critically acclaimed, played by millions worldwide, and has songs that fit many moods for many people, no matter their background, ethnicity, or musical taste. It’s an album that seemingly transcends music itself.
Which is why it’s insane that it lost to 1989. The Grammy Award for Album Of The Year should reward the ambitious and successfully produced piece of art that is released in a year, not the bland and safe choice. It’s one thing if an artist is ambitious and completely screws it up, but Kendrick Lamar made an album that succeeded on multiple fronts. It’s an album that has quickly become an instant classic, a fine example of hip-hop at its finest, and an immortal piece of rap, and thus overall music, history. It might be because of the fact that the voters for the award are scared off because of the fact that it’s a rap album, maybe it’s not, but any way you cut it, it’s a damn shame.
Hey, this isn’t the first time the Grammys have been on the wrong side of history when awarding the Album Of The Year since 1990!
(previous 2 were nominated together and neither won; lost to Steely Dan, of all acts)
(last 2 both lost to Ray Charles; RIP)
And now, introducing to the Robbed Album HOF…
Just because bland pop is prone to winning AOTY doesn’t mean its fair.
But I dunno.
I’m no mortal man.
Maybe I’m just another blogger.