Why Kanye Deserves 100 Grammys But the Grammys Don’t Deserve Him

The Grammys remain on script while music's biggest players go off it.

The last two weeks have seen the major moves of Rihanna, Kanye, and Beyoncé dominate our music media. Theirs are the only stories we are all talking about, and for good reason — their artistry and industriousness heralds the shape of the future of music. Yet all of the collective noise made by music’s biggest players wasn’t heard on Monday night’s Grammys telecast.

It’s no surprise that Kanye nixed his Grammys invite, even amid all that he seeks in terms of Grammy recognition. He wants the world. How else to explain why he tweeted about wanting to be the creative director of the historic French fashion house Hermès? More than any other artist, he is in a position to survey all that the music industry can muster for an artist of his magnitude — no wonder he has set his sights elsewhere.

Taking last night’s Grammys as evidence, what unreaped riches lie ahead for Kanye West? If he enters the industry’s good graces, he might end up like Lionel Richie and see a country bro (Luke Bryant) and nouveau-retro pop star (Meghan Trainor) ruin his greatest songs with the sheer force of their impassioned mediocrity. Or witness one of the decade’s least-understood pop stars perform a sprawling tribute in the form of a hammy Vegas-grade medley. Between those performances was a parade of guitars, despite EDM and rap remaining the modes of pushing musical boundaries. Kendrick Lamar, the only evidence of either on the Grammys stage, was forced to carry that weight — a frustratingly trademark Grammys move.

Even if Kanye tweets that he wants to win a hundred Grammys, it’s clear it’s not the dubious honor he seeks — what he wants is the legacy. Kanye appears fixated on white institutions, but in America those are the markers of record that allow one a staged Grammy tribute rather than a two-second memorial compilation clip. Recorded music is the time for the season, but amid watching the Motorhead tribute–cum–Joe Perry relethon, I checked my Twitter feed just praying for more Kanye tweets. No wonder Rihanna didn’t show up; why give any more time to a business that needed to create a hashtag (#supportmusic) to prop itself up?

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