Millions of music fans were surprised and perhaps even a little upset when the Grammys named Esperanza Spalding the Best New Artist over Justin Bieber and gave Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" Album of the Year over Eminem's "Recovery." Many simply voiced their opinions and confusion on Twitter -- like new Arcade Fire fan Rosie O'Donnell -- but music executive Steve Stoute went one step further, purchasing a full-page ad in the New York Times to criticize Grammy president Neil Portnow for once again overlooking the most deserving talent in key categories and "losing touch with contemporary popular culture."
One of Stoute's arguments revolves around the Steely Dan debacle of 2001, when the jazz-rock group's "Two Against Nature" won Album of the Year over Eminem's more-deserving "The Marshall Mathers LP." "While we cannot solely utilize album sales as the barometer, this was certainly not the case." Stoute wrote. "Not only is Eminem the best-selling artist of the last decade, but 'The Marshall Mathers LP' was a critical and commercial success that sold over 10 million albums in the United States (19 million worldwide), while Steely Dan sold less than 10% of that amount and came and went as quietly as a church mouse." Stoute's argument loses some credibility because he doesn't mention that Radiohead's "Kid A," deemed by many to be the best album of the 2000s, also lost in the Album of the Year category that year, but the overall point he's trying to make throughout his open letter is that hip-hop continually gets shafted by Grammy voters.
In Grammy history, OutKast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" back in 2004 is the only hip-hop LP to win an Album of the Year award, and since then old timers like Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, and Robert Plant have defeated Kanye West and Lil Wayne in the category. While the Grammys pass over hip-hop in the big awards, they still continue to spotlight rap talent in order to attract viewers, even though they're reluctant to actually reward them in any major categories. "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 to ensure viewership and to deliver the all-too-important ratings for its advertisers," Stoute writes.
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