On chat sesso the Grammy’s have been called too white, too male, too boring, and too out of touch, the 2018 Grammy Awards took a ratings hit, tumbling to an all-time low of 19.8 million viewers.
This year, a number of A-list artists — Beyonce, Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift — passed on “music’s biggest night.” Still, the Recording Academy’s attempt to course correct was on full display.
Thirty-one female artists took home gramophones at last night’s 61st annual Grammy Awards. Women also dominated across genres, with big wins for Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R and Dua Lipa — a stark contrast from last year, when Alessia Cara was the only woman to take home a solo gramophone.
Host Alicia Keys praised the Academy for the diversity in last night’s nominees — a possible result of the awards’ decision to expand its big four categories (best new artist and album, song and record of the year) from five nominees to eight. This year’s awards were decided by a more diverse judges panel, with 51 percent female voters and 48 percent voters of color, compared to 28 percent and 37 percent, respectively, the previous year.
And after blowback for mixing politics and music last year, a surprise appearance by former first lady Michelle Obama focused on how music can unite Americans from different places and backgrounds.
“It allows us to hear one another – to invite each other in,” she said, joined on stage by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith and Keys.
But can more diverse nominees, Michelle Obama, and big wins for women help the Grammys bounce back from last year’s criticism?
The Grammy Awards were hardly perfect, but they offered their share of satisfying moments and buzzworthy miscues, as well as an eclectic mix of performers and winners. So a collective sigh of relief is surely emanating from the award-show industrial complex, after the show’s ratings were basically flat compared to last year.
The Grammys averaged 19.9 million viewers, per Nielsen data, which actually represents a slight uptick compared to last year. The audience among adults age 18-49 — the key demographic on which ad sales are based — did slip about 7% below year-ago levels, to an all-time low.
By contrast, viewing of the Grammys dropped precipitously in 2018, in what turned out to be a harbinger for the Oscars, which took a similar dive, each falling by more than 20%.
Since then, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which presents the Oscars) and ABC have experienced a semi-public panic attack over how to arrest that decline, resulting in the mystery leading up to this year’s host-free telecast.
The Recording Academy has faced similar pressures, if not quite as ostentatiously, before delivering a mostly entertaining show — with an expanded list of nominees in key categories — emceed by Alicia Keys, after two years of CBS latenight host James Corden.
Notably, some of the proposed “fixes” for Oscar ratings didn’t seem to be a major issue for the Grammys. For starters, ABC has been eager to trim the broadcast’s length, holding it close to three hours. The Grammys ran several minutes past their allotted 3 ½-hour window, despite abruptly cutting Drake’s acceptance speech short and playing off some of the more long-winded winners.
CBS did cite some other encouraging metrics, including the Grammys’ status as the “most social” awards telecast this season, and a significant increase on digital platforms. Overall, more than 40 million viewers watched at least part of the broadcast.
On the down side, the continued slide among younger adults is surely a concerning trend, if part of a larger challenge facing broadcasting in general as TV consumption habits change.
The Oscars, of course, cap a dizzying run of award shows — many of them televised — that drag out over more than two months. Given that saturation and the sometimes-repetitive nature of these affairs — such as Lady Gaga singing “Shallow” on Sunday, and due to reprise that in two weeks on the Oscars — the top ceremonies seem to be fighting an ongoing battle to resist the pull of gravity.
Still, Sunday’s Grammy results — paired with relatively flat numbers for the Golden Globes in January — provide some hope that audience tune-in could be flattening out, or at least settling around a new normal. The hope also lingers that having more popular nominees in the best-picture mix — including “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born” — will boost interest, and thus viewership.
That might not be enough to make Oscar organizers sleep easy, but in the current awards climate, just holding serve ratings-wise, as the Grammys did, is beginning to look like chat erotica gratis