Grammys slammed as out of touch with pop

A U.S. record executive took out a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times to challenge Grammy organizers as being out of touch with popular culture.
Rihanna and Eminem perform at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13. Grammy organizers are being slammed for overlooking Eminem in the best artist and record categories. ((Matt Sayles/Associated Press))

A U.S. record executive took out a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times to challenge Grammy organizers as being out of touch with popular culture.

Steve Stoute, a 20-year veteran of the music business who managed hip-hop artist Nas, took the Grammys to task for snubbing artists such as Eminem and Justin Bieber who are genuine pop hitmakers.

"While these very artists that the public acknowledges as being worthy of their money and fandom are snubbed year after year at the Grammys, the awards show has absolutely no qualms in inviting these same artists to perform," he wrote in an open letter to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, organizers of the Grammys.

"Interesting that the Grammys understands cultural relevance when it comes to using Eminem's, Kanye West's or Justin Bieber's name in the billing [but not when giving out awards]."

Canadian-born Bieber lost out in the breakthrough artist category to Seattle jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, while Eminem, despite 10 nominations, took home only two, neither of them high-profile awards.

However both artists performed for the Grammy broadcast, which drew 26 million viewers.

Stoute said the Grammys seems to have a "fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic."

This is particularly notable in hip hop being overlooked for major awards, he said, citing Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP losing out in 2001 to Steely Dan and Kanye West's Graduation beaten in 2008 by Hancock's River: The Joni Letters.

"While there is no doubt in my mind of the artistic talents of Steely Dan or Herbie Hancock, we must acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Eminem and Kanye West and how their music is shaping, influencing and defining the voice of a generation," Stoute wrote in the full-page ad.

Jaden Smith, left, and Justin Bieber perform at the Grammys. Bieber was overlooked as a breakthrough artist, says producer Steve Stoute. ((Matt Sayles/Associated Press))

Bieber also failed to get his due, he asked. "How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win best new artist? Again, his cultural impact and success are even more quantifiable if you factor in his YouTube and Vevo viewership — the fact that he was a talent born entirely of the digital age?"

Stoute said he was suspicious of the way Montreal's Arcade Fire was showcased at the 2011 Grammys, suggesting Grammy organizers may have known of the win in advance.

"As the show was coming to a close and just prior to presenting the award for album of the year, the band Arcade Fire performed Month of May — only to ... surprise ... win the category and, in a moment of sheer coincidence, happened to be prepared to perform Ready to Start."

"Does the Grammys intentionally use artists for their celebrity, popularity and cultural appeal when they already know the winners and then program a show against this expectation?" he asked.

Stoute is calling on all artists to pressure Grammy organizers to change the system to "truly reflect and truly acknowledge your art."

The Recording Academy has not commented on Stoute's criticism.