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Throwback Thursday: Forty years later, the Grammys still struggle with recognizing talent

(Daily Bruin Archives)

By Elizabeth Hanczor

Feb. 21, 2019 5:31 p.m.

It’s been four decades since the 21st annual Grammy Awards back in 1979.

The Bruin had some hot takes previewing the awards this year – and it had some back then too.

In a column entitled “Grammy Awards: A shrine to pop mediocrity,” former Daily Bruin senior staff Jodi Zechowy anchored her animosity toward the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences on its inability to honor originality.

Particularly frustrating in Zechowy’s eyes was the fact that the Rolling Stones had not yet won a Grammy Award, despite their remarkable success in the music industry. As they made their way back to the mainstream stage, their album “Some Girls” was, according to Zechowy, unfairly beat out by “Saturday Night Fever,” which she derided for consisting of a number of previously released songs.

The infamous gold gramophone statue remains elusive, even for some of the most successful artists. In a “Second Take” on this year’s Grammy Awards, Daily Bruin senior staffer Eli Countryman broke down some of the nominations, discussing which artists got snubbed and which artists were rightfully awarded.

One of the nominees for best Pop Vocal Album at this year’s Grammy Awards was Taylor Swift – an artist who, like the Rolling Stones back in 1979, has had immense mainstream success, selling more than one million copies of more albums than any other artist in history. Based on sheer numbers alone, Countryman argued that Swift was snubbed.

In addition to the general lack of recognition for nonpop artists, Zechowy was also aghast at the overdone theatricality of the show. In her piece, Zechowy proceeded to express her distaste for the garish decor used to adorn the auditorium used.

“As for the pomp,” she wrote, “The Shrine looked about as glittery as the old exhibition can.”

That same pomp that Zechowy derided has only grown, perhaps most noticeable in Camila Cabello’s glamorous “Havana” set and the diamonds and drapery used in Cardi B’s “Money” number.

The Grammys have jumped around a bit in their location, but the recent upgrade to the humongous Staples Center arena reveals a general growth in audience – and gaudiness. However, as the spectacle grows, the lack of female and LGBTQ artists winning awards has become more and more apparent.


Last year, the Recording Academy came under attack for ignoring talented female artists – doubling down on the sentiment that women had to “step up” if they were going to be recognized. This year, female winners Kacey Musgraves and Janelle Monae made statements supporting other female artists and the LGBTQ community, calling out the award show for its lack of inclusivity.

However, as Zechowy made clear in her article, the controversy’s been around since the ceremony’s early days and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Zechowy ended her article concluding that hopefully more artists outside of the Top 40 would get noticed for their talents – sort of like how Countryman noted that the Grammys got so much wrong this year.

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Elizabeth Hanczor
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