The Grammys Wasn't Edgy or Avant-Garde, It Was Just Tired and Boring Shock-Value

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

I didn’t watch the Grammys. In fact, I haven’t watched award shows for some time. Not only do I know that the relevant bits would be highlighted in short clips on the internet later, but today’s award shows are also just boring. Where there used to be good-natured fun and actual comedic moments meant to make people laugh, we now have try-hard performances and shock value.

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None of it seems real anymore, and by “real” I mean it all seems like a disingenuous attempt at pushing the envelope in order to break new ground and take the arts into a direction that’s never been seen before. Gone are the days when skill and beauty were the lodestars. All you need is a semi-catchy beat to wave your mostly exposed butt around to and something to really shock those middle-American “trads.”

In 2021, it was borderline porn that the Grammys tried to push on America as Cardi B performed her song “W.A.P.” to an excess of twerking and simulated sex. The display didn’t attract the eyes of America and the ratings tanked. This year, Sam Smith kept the BDSM and sexualized dancing but added Satanic displays for his performance of his single “Unholy,” sponsored by Pfizer.

No, that’s not a joke.

Sure enough, people were aghast that such a display would be happening on national television. Don’t get me wrong, it is sad that this is what’s considered the height of creativity in today’s mainstream society, but from where I’m sitting this isn’t necessarily shocking. At least not anymore.

Watching Cardi B and Smith, I didn’t feel insulted, saddened, or horrified. I just felt tired.

I miss the days when I could turn on mainstream radio and hear something that I genuinely liked, or turn on a television and watch a show I’d been waiting all week to see the next episode of. I’ve largely abandoned that hope now as everything just feels like a knockoff of a knockoff or something repurposes for “modern audiences.”

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(READ: The Lie of the “Modern Audience”)

Not that I’m not into new music or movies, and experimental directions, but nothing about Smith’s performance is experimental or new. Just like every other performance I’ve seen from the mainstream nowadays, it’s less art and more spectacle. It’s literally designed to make one group cheer and feel like they’re on the right side of history while it makes the other group angry. It’s done mostly for the artist to feel like they’re doing something fresh that pushes the envelope when really they’re just satisfying their own egos by putting new twists on hand-me-down greatness.

The bottom line is that the mainstream entertainment industry has failed to produce much in the way of actual art. Most of the new stuff you see that would actually be considered groundbreaking and entertaining is being done by normal people. For instance, the horror genre of entertainment has struggled to give us anything new for some time, yet if you were to venture onto YouTube you could find some incredibly interesting concepts and terrifying videos from people on a shoestring budget and a little editing knowledge in various programs.

The rise of “analog horror” such as Alex Kister’s “Mandela Catalogue” and Kris Straub’s “Local 58” are good examples of this. I was legitimately kept up at night by YouTuber Kyle Edward’s movie “Skinamarink.”

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In the realm of musical artists, leaving the radio you might hear various bands such as The Midnight and Lord Huron that create incredible music that sticks with you and makes you go back to listen to it over and over again.

Even in the realm of children’s entertainment, the best show for kids is Ms. Rachel, a small group of people creating educational fun for babies and toddlers.

The mainstream entertainment industry is boring and over-politicized. It’s filled with people who seem less interested in creating something that could last through the ages and more focused on getting specific reactions from certain people.

It’s boring. I’m bored.

And I think this is a pretty standard feeling throughout the western world. The things people used to flock to just aren’t getting the fanfare they used to. The artist dressing in bizarre outfits to go along with their groundbreaking musical style is gone, and so have the audiences. The preachiness of celebrities falls on increasingly deaf ears. The red carpet is looking more and more like a dull shade of brown. The mainstream entertainment industry is that stereotypical actress looking to harness the fame of her youth but is find that the more she tries, the fewer people care.

I doubt the ratings for the Grammys will be shown to have improved since last year, but even if they do I can’t imagine it’s improved by much. And why should people tune in? Sure, it has flashing lights, fire, nudity, celebrities, and controversy…but there’s not much to see.

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