Entertainment evolves along with the cultures that produce it, and as has been the tradition over the last couple of decades, these yearly movements and changes have been documented and rewarded by the many different award shows that populate the beginning of the year. This past year has shown vast movements in the area of music and the recent nominations and awards from the Grammy’s have reflected these. Each genre has produced great works, including Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the soundtrack to the musical Hamilton, the break-out Broadway hit that brings rap and hip-hop to American history.
In 2015, there was more of a revitalization of older trends rather than any revolutionary movements. A vast majority of the nominees displayed some kind of homage to past decades. One movement that I found the most interesting was the recent increase of interest in bringing back the Motown sound. This is evident in the nomination of the most popular champion of this effort, The Alabama Shakes.
Though it is undeniable the effect that Motown has had in the development in R&B, jazz, and the blues, it has been awhile since an artist who plays the sound in an original fashion (without modern additions) has been able to find this level of success. It could be theorized that this success was born out of the millennial generation’s new interest in vinyl’s and old records, reaching for vintage sounds rather than anything new, but it is undeniable the quality that The Alabama Shakes bring to their music. They are not merely trying to replay memories, but rather create new ones that though look similar enough to elicit nostalgia, are different enough to create a new experience. Their efforts were rewarded by Grammy’s for best Rock Song and Performance as well as Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Best Album of the Year.
Another artist that has received many nominations this season is Kendrick Lamar with his album To Pimp a Butterfly. It is hard to measure rap since it is such an individualistic experience, yet Kendrick Lamar, for many people, has come to represent a refreshing movement in the hip-hop genre. Some speak to his new takes on the age-old topics of rap, while others say that he is a return to the early days of rap, that he represents a change from the typical superficial rappers that have come to define the genre. It seems that the vast majority of rap fans are behind Kendrick Lamar and what he stands for, seeing that he received all of the rap awards along with receiving a nomination for best album.
The biggest topic in music of 2015 was Taylor Swift and her great evolution in the form of her album 1989. The once popular country musician made the leap to pop music, and the charts show that she made it with grace and success. Her album has come to define the year as a whole, with many of the tracks receiving individual accolades. The news was filled with reports on the records she was breaking and the acts of kindness she would give to her fans. The public was obsessed with not only her music, but her persona and brand as well. She, like the other artists mentioned, pulled from past sounds and played on the nostalgia that has come to the forefront of culture to power her music, yet she streamlined the influences into a more contemporary pop sound.
This album won Taylor Swift the Grammy’s for the Best Pop Vocal Album and in a controversial result, Best Album of the Year, beating out the other main contender Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Though the conversation on who won and who should have won Grammy’s is complicated and controversial, the award show has operated well in its cause to offer a snapshot of music culture in 2015 with a great diversity in its nominations and its decisions.