Nearly two weeks after being announced, the 2021 Grammy nominations continue to make headlines — not for who’s nominated, but for who wasn’t, with many finding it particularly galling that The Weeknd didn’t receive a single nod for his critically acclaimed After Hours.
Ellie Goulding is sharing her thoughts about awards in general, explaining her belief that industry awards that pit one artist against another can undermine the entire artistic process.
“I sit and wonder when the industry stopped reflecting the impulses that drive us as musicians,” she writes.
“I sit and wonder when factors such as industry relationships, internal politics, and magazine covers started being rewarded before the music itself. I sit and wonder about the ways in which artists in other fields — fine art, dance, film — are identified and praised for their notable bodies of work, not because their notable bodies or working relationships,” Goulding continues.
“In the least philosophical way possible, the idea of awarding someone is interesting. When a boxer knocks out their opponent or when a scientist discovers a break-through, it’s fairly black or white on whether they are awarded for their achievement. When looking at ‘art’ those waters muddy,” she adds.
She also points out that in other fields within the artistic realm, “awards seem to come off the back of great critical acclaim, but in today’s music industry such ‘acclaim’ can have varied sources. People are being awarded — in the form of both nominations and category wins — for reasons that are hard to decipher. If both the most globally popular artists and most critically revered artists are not being recognized, how do we, as artists, go on? Would a runner start a race if they knew crossing the finish line first wouldn’t necessarily win them a gold medal?”
She goes on: “When peers and friends get nominated for a major award, I am so, so happy to see them rewarded for their hard work and especially for their brilliant writing. From my perspective, there is nothing greater than listening to a song or an album that has saved you, inspired you, evoked deep emotion in some new sort of way… and then see it get the attention and award it deserves. At the same time, there is always a crushing, horrible feeling for my peers and friends who don’t get acknowledged, by the very same system, for their work year-after-year despite making music I and many others believe is groundbreaking.”
She then poses a question for the music industry, asking “what constitutes the worthiness of an award? This is not rhetorical; I would love to know an answer. I would love to know if what I have done throughout my career, and what so many other artists have done throughout theirs, in receiving a certain level of critical reception, does not qualify for some sort of formal recognition, then what does?”
She follows that up with another, asking “who is it that decides this worthiness? There appears to be a greater lack of transparency in our industries process of award nominations and voting — maybe those who are privy to the process, are able to take advantage of it?”
Goulding concludes by declaring that “it is time to have a bigger discussion about where we are going and how we acknowledge and reward those who are, frankly, the reason this industry exists in the first place.”
Goulding’s essay can be read in its entirety right here.