On the ‘Grammy Awards vs. No 1 hits’ conundrum

Winning a Grammy Award continues to be seen as the award of the century in Nigeria. When the 64th edition of the Grammy award show was held this year, many Nigerians were looking forward to musicians like Wizkid, Made Kuti, and Tems clinching an award in their respective categories. However, the universe had other plans as no Nigerian artist won a Grammy. This garnered many reactions from Nigerians worldwide, and the streets of Twitter were filled with hashtags and keypad warriors; everyone was livid. “Why didn’t Wizkid win?” was the question on everyone’s lips, and of course, theories for the loss began to spring forth. Some people believed the organizers of the Grammy awards were biased; others said the song ‘Essence’ should have won because it had a cultural influence. Many others questioned the voters’ age range and music taste. While a smaller fraction believed that with or without the Grammys, Wizkid was still Wizkid; in Stonebwoy’s words, he said, “When you’re big, you’re big. Awards are like icing on a cake; if they put, we go chop; if them no put, we go still chop.” While most of the engagement supported Wizkid winning a Grammy and calling out the organizers to do a better job, another group was vehemently attacking Angelique Kidjo and sending derogatory comments on her page, which made her shut down the comments section on her Twitter account. No Nigerian artist won; a little tragic, right? But throwing mean comments to an innocent person doesn’t change the fact that she won and makes you wonder what all the fuss is about the Grammys. I mean, Wizkid’s songs are topping charts steadily, and everyone forgets that because he didn’t win an award, and this raises a few questions like why are the Grammy awards so hyped. And why do we have to worry about the Grammys when Wizkid has many hit songs? Well, let’s dive in.

To solve this puzzle between the Grammy awards vs. No.1 hits, we must understand each concept individually. According to Wikipedia, “The Grammy Award (stylized as Grammy, originally called Gramophone Award) or just Grammy, is an award presented by the Recording Academy to recognize “Outstanding Achievement in the music industry.” The first Grammy Awards ceremony was held on May 4, 1959, to honor the musical accomplishments of performers for the year 1958. After over 150 recording industry experts have determined nominees to determine that the work has been entered in the correct category, the final voting ballots are sent to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) voting members who may then vote. It is important to note that members are encouraged, but not required, to vote only in their fields of expertise. This means that someone who is miseducated on the dynamics of Hip-hop or pop music dynamics can decide who has the best Hip-hop album. Hold this in mind as we delve into the benefits of winning a Grammy Award.

So, do artists get money for winning a Grammy? Well, NO!!! They don’t get any monetary benefits from the academy, but they get loads of recognition, and it will look nice on their profile. Also, according to Forbes, quite a several Grammy winners get something called the ‘Grammy Bounce or Bump.’ This term describes the increase in ticket sales of the artist’s concerts, and music producers get their fees increased. For example, rapper and music producer David Banner, who produced Lil Wayne’s ‘Tha Carter III’ album, said his producer fee went from $50,000 to $100,000+ after winning a Grammy award. According to Billboard, artists will often see a boost in album sales and streaming numbers after winning the Grammys; in Taylor Swift’s case, there was a 53 percent increase in earnings a week after she won the year’s best album. The award brings in more streaming, but it also brings many opportunities like record deals. For Jamaican artist Koffee, she signed a U.S record deal days after winning a Grammy award for the Best Reggae album.

However, these juicy benefits do not override the Grammy awards that have been criticized for being commercialized because many artists have viewed them as a “gigantic promotional machine” for the music industry. The academy would instead nominate a commercially successful album. Besides being commercialized, it has also been accused of being racist, sexist, marginalized, and nominating sexually inappropriate music. This year, the academy was heavily criticized for awarding Louis C.K’s ‘Sincerely Louis C.K’ as the best comedy album, even though the album included jokes about sexual misconduct revelations he was found guilty of. With all these discoveries, it makes me wonder why Nigerians place the Grammys on a pedestal when it has become an avenue to promote mediocrity, sexual molestation, racism, sexism, and the organizers spend millions on a show that a lot of artists have begun to stop attending, and this is what Nigerians want so badly?

While speaking to The PGM Club about the Grammy vs. No.1 hits issue, Nigerian music producer Sarz said, “If I have to choose, I’d rather have a number one song in the world than have a Grammy. I’d rather have my song number one on Billboard than have a Grammy.” However, those who don’t know their onions would easily pick having a Grammy award because of the glamorous attention that comes with it and fail to see how well their music is recognized worldwide without a Grammy award.

Regardless of the “Grammy craves,” many Nigerian musicians have been recognized globally because of their incredible music that has toppled world music charts. Ckay’s ‘Love Nwatintin’, for example, has about 824.9 million streams on Spotify and 100.08 million streams on Apple Music and has topped music charts in various countries in Africa and beyond. Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’ has spent 77 weeks on the Billboard World Albums, while the song ‘Essence’ is still a global hit and has sold 2.6M RIA units. These are all hits songs that have opened doors for African music worldwide, and now we have the American Billboard Afrobeats charts. They do not have to wait for a group of people to decide when they get global recognition because the hit songs already do this for them. Burna Boy sold-out Madison Square Garden and performed at the 2022 Met Gala after-party in two weeks. Did he get all of these because of his Grammy Award? Absolutely not. His songs, plus have you seen him on stage? Coupled with his deep understanding of his craft gave him all of these. Imagine Ckay without ‘Love Nwatintin,’ imagine Lojay and Sarz without ‘LVNATTN,’ imagine Wizkid without ‘Essence’ or ‘Made In Lagos,’ imagine your faves with none of their hit songs and tell me what you see. No Nigerian artist might have won the Grammys this year, but they aren’t waiting around for an award to define them; they are championing themselves and carving out lanes with their music that would exist for a long time. The Grammys might give global recognition and other things, but after that, what else is given?

Now, I am not overriding the significance of winning a Grammy award because it does have its perks but having a number one song in the world or having the number one album has way better perks like more streaming, global recognition, record deals, international collaborations, juicy endorsement deals, sold-out concerts and lots more. After reading all these, I’d ask again, which would you choose, a Grammy award or a number one hit song?

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