What Harry Styles’ Album of the Year Win at the Grammys Means to the Art and the Artist

Diyar Keyhanfar

At the 65th Grammy awards in February 2023, British singer and former One Direction member, Harry Styles, took home the award for Album of the Year – an award that is often regarded as the highest accolade a music artist can receive. He beat fierce and superior competition from other nominees in the category which included: Kendrick Lamar’s Mr Morale & the Big Steppers, Adele’s 30, Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti and Beyoncé’s Renaissance.

The Grammys are notorious for favouring inoffensive and “safe” albums in this category, and this is not the first time they have been criticised for this bias. In 2016, Taylor Swift’s pop hit album 1989 won over Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed and daring To Pimp a Butterfly. In 2017, Adele’s 25 won Album of the Year over Beyoncé’s magnum-opus Lemonade.  However, Adele then famously broke her Grammy award in half on stage before dedicating her entire speech to Beyoncé, deeming her ‘the artist of our time’ – a sentiment that was repeated by Lizzo in the 2023 ceremony. In fact, with the most recent loss, Beyoncé has been snubbed of the coveted Album of the Year a total of four times, despite being the most awarded artist in award show history the same night Renaissance lost to Harry’s House. In the entertainment industry, almost everyone knows by now that most award shows and prize culture are rooted in extreme bias and unethical motives. There is little wonder as to why The Weekend boycotted the Grammys and has not submitted any of his work since he received 0 nominations in the 2021 ceremonies, despite ‘Blinding Lights’ being the biggest hit of 2020.

Even if we exclude such atrocities from conversation on race, bias, corruption, sexism and other very relevant topics, the issue here lies in the unforgivable disrespect to the art, the artist and the music. If we approach this category from a strictly critical lens, which only values the craft of songwriting, production and composition, Harry’s House still fails to impress in comparison to its competition. Kendrick Lamar’s Mr Morale & the Big Steppers is monumental in its honesty and a revelation in its genre, especially in 2023. Beyoncé’s Renaissance received rave reviews from critics and fans upon its release and is on its way to cement itself as an integral album to representations of the black LGBTQ community. Bad Bunny’s critical and commercial success with Un Verano Sin T was significant to Latin music’s place in mainstream music. Even if the Grammys wanted to award a so-called “safe” album, Adele’s 30 had more heart and meaning. Harry’s House, though successful and creative in many aspects, is too engineered to sell a carefully manufactured image and sound, and lacks in honesty, lyrical prowess and overall purpose.

It is a shame that even the most prestigious and longest running prize in the music industry fails to honour music as an art form, instead favouring popularity, lucrativeness and networking. 

Categories: Music