Hollow Trophies: What do music award shows truly merit?

The 2019 MTV European music awards were on last week, did you hear? You probably did. You probably heard that Halsey took home the honour of ‘Best Pop’ artist, or that Shaun Mendes was crowned ‘Best Artist’ or perhaps that Billie Eilish effortlessly swept up ‘Best Song’ with Bad Guy after she practically levelled the internet with it. 

But I’ve heard whispers, murmurs from timid voices that dared mention categories outside the realms of pop and hip-hop; of course, these acts are consistently shafted in favour of those more likely to bring in the bucks. As it stands, despite the EMA’s namesake seemingly denoting to an aim of celebrating talents across the globe, you’ll have a tough time seeing past Nicki Minaj’s rear-end to see what the rest of the world has to offer.

31 of 49 EMA categories are dedicated national music awards with the likes of Sweden, Germany, France, Brazil and 26 others putting forth their nations’ best performers. “But what are we thinking?!”, cry the fat cats. “Surely the public aren’t going to warm to the likes of Belgium’s Snelle or Finnish rap duo JVG right? It’s fine, we’ll just award complete fixation to acts like Dua Lipa or Halsey which are far easier to market to the public — but don’t be alarmed folks this is still an international celebration of music and not a popularity contest.”

So if you don’t play to what gets those monthly listeners in, good luck getting your face on the highlight showreel. It’s not looking good for the unrepresented. It seems to be the case that they’re either not there or watered down entirely; enter the EMA’s rock category. It was laughable. A worryingly aged-looking Green Day pinch the sparkling MTV globe in a state of bewilderment – as if dementia had already began to kick in – but when stacked up against the likes of what MTV consider ‘rock’ (Imagine dragons, really?) it’s not too difficult to see how three late-forty-year-old guys with eyeliner and bright hair took home the so-called prize.

This forms just a single building block in a large-scale middle-finger monument to those of alternative genres from the world’s biggest music award shows.

Both MTV and the American Music Awards (AMAs) omit any speck of heavy metal from their ceremonial make-up with latter’s best attempt being Panic! at the disco (*groans*) for the alt-rock category; no expenses spared there huh? I suppose it is better than the AMA’s insulting display in 2018 when rap trio Migos won best rock/pop duo/group award… yes, that actually happened.

It’s an odd phenomena, really, as metal tends to be some of the most profoundly complex and proficiently-crafted music that can be written, yet, it’s tucked away like an unloved child when the neighbours come to visit. The Grammys – for what they’re worth – do put the effort in with a dedicated metal performance category but that’s about as far as metalheads can ever hope to get. Due to the Grammy’s rather commercially motivated panel of voters, you’re never going to see a metal outfit take home best album or best new artist; why acclaim the delicate guitar-slinging and unique time-signatures when simple beats and a lick of sex-appeal sells every time. 

Slipknot’s Corey Taylor puts it best: “To them, real rock/metal is Neanderthal, low-brow, common. Too much attitude. They can’t control us. They can’t use us to sell Pepsi” and as much as I don’t think big record label execs want to push soft drinks he certainly has a point – and it doesn’t look a resolution is dawning anytime soon. Perhaps it’s a simply innate consequence of metal residing underneath the branch of counter-culture, it’s simply a pity that, as a result, this leads to criminal levels of unrecognition.

So, another year goes by, another round of the world’s largest music awards draw to a close; another slap in the face for fans of anything besides what can be flung onto a billboard without making your gran wince; roll on 2020.

Words: Alex Mace

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