Media mogul Steve Stoute took out a $40,000 full-page ad in the New York Times‘ Sunday Styles section on Sunday that took the Grammy Awards to task for becoming out of step with popular culture, in part for failing to honor Eminem and Justin Bieber at this year’s ceremony. (You can read the full ad here.) “The awards show has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions, leaving me to question why any contemporary popular artist would even participate,” wrote Stoute, whose Translation agency specializes in music-oriented advertising for companies such as McDonalds and Hewlett-Packard.
According to Stoute, the Recording Academy has consistently snubbed rap performers and denied the massive cultural impact of artists such as Eminem and Kanye West. Acknowledging his hip-hop bias, Stoute made a point to stick up for Bieber, whom he says is “an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist” yet lost in the Best New Artist category to jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding.
Stoute claimed that this year’s Grammy Awards was filled with performances by major artists as a way of drawing viewers, partly to compensate for relatively obscure artists winning in top categories. He was particularly skeptical about the Arcade Fire‘s readiness to perform a second song after their surprise win for Album of the Year, suggesting that the awards were rigged in some way.
While Stoute’s frustrations are understandable – particularly as a person who has spent much of his own career working with hip-hop artists such as Nas and Jay-Z – to some extent his rant is a bit misguided. Insisting that the Grammys become a popularity contest that privileges record sales above all other artistic considerations is at odds with the voting process of the Academy. In this sense, Stoute may have the function of the Grammy Awards confused with that of the Billboard and People’s Choice Awards.