Last December, when Ellie Goulding accepted the Variety’s Decade award at our annual Hitmakers event, she noted — more out of curiosity than bitterness — that for all the commercial and critical success in her decade-plus-long career, particularly in her native U.K., she has had little recognition from the industry’s biggest awards.
“I haven’t really won many awards,” she said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve really been acknowledged for this work.”
— Variety (@Variety) December 7, 2019
She elaborated on that theme in an op-ed published Wednesday, apparently inspired not just by the fact that her most recent album, “Brightest Blue,” received no Grammy nominations, but also by other seemingly deserving artists — most notably The Weeknd — didn’t, either. While Goulding won a pair of Brit Awards early in her career, she has won surprisingly few trophies for an artist of her commercial and creative stature.
The op-ed, titled “The Start of a Conversation,” begins with her expressing her gratitude at being able to make a living as a musician before turning toward the nature of awards.
“I sit and wonder when the industry stopped reflecting the impulses that drive us as musicians,” she writes. “I sit and wonder when factors such as industry relationships, internal politics, and magazine covers started being rewarded before the music itself. I sit and wonder about the ways in which artists in other fields — fine art, dance, film — are identified and praised for their notable bodies of work, not because their notable bodies or working relationships.”
Later, she continues, “When peers and friends get nominated for a major award, I am so, so happy to see them rewarded for their hard work and especially for their brilliant writing. From my perspective, there is nothing greater than listening to a song or an album that has saved you, inspired you, evoked deep emotion in some new sort of way… and then see it get the attention and award it deserves. At the same time, there is always a crushing, horrible feeling for my peers and friends who don’t get acknowledged, by the very same system, for their work year-after-year despite making music I and many others believe is ground-breaking.
“When this crushing feeling returns each year, I turn to my loyal fans. Through the love and relentless support of these fans, along with an enormous amount of luck, I have amassed what I see to be a notable body of work in this industry — in the form of many millions of album sales, many billions of streams, and three platinum albums and hopefully many more. But — while this gives me so much to be positive about and, so importantly to me, a platform to make change in this world — it still, apparently, does not qualify me, or my peers with the same reception, for formal recognition from my industry.
“So, my question to you, the music industry, is — and I ask this humbly to open a discussion — what constitutes the worthiness of an award? This is not rhetorical; I would love to know an answer. I would love to know if what I have done throughout my career, and what so many other artists have done throughout theirs, in receiving a certain level of critical reception, does not qualify for some sort of formal recognition, then what does?
“Another big question here is not what, but who is it that decides this worthiness? There appears to be a greater lack of transparency in our industries process of award nominations and voting — maybe those who are privy to the process, are able to take advantage of it? Before I go on, I just want to add one thing that is incredibly important for anyone reading this to understand: I am writing this on behalf of artists and I am directing it at those with a control of the system. I am not, for one second, pointing a finger at any artists who have been nominated or won awards. I, and so many others, just want some transparency.
In closing, she concludes: “To all those artists and creatives, who push on without a nod, wink or pat on the back, I respect you. And in this time — stage designs still being drawn up, lighting still being experimented with, instruments still being played, and beautiful, moving, powerful lyrics and melodies still being written every day — I say this to you, and to myself: keep going, keep doing what you love, keep the faith, keep knowing what you do is more important than you will ever know.
“And at the same time, music industry, I say to you: it is time to have a bigger discussion about where we are going and how we acknowledge and reward those who are, frankly, the reason this industry exists in the first place.”
Read the full post on Medium here.