They say rap has finally passed rock in popularity among modern music fans. But someone forgot to tell Bruno Mars. The pop star cleaned up at the Grammy Awards, taking home all six awards for which he was nominated, including best song, best record, and album of the year. Not a bad haul in the year rap was supposed to, finally, reign supreme.
That’s not to say rap had a rough night. Superstar rapper Kendrick Lamar took home five awards, leaving rapper and mogul, Jay-Z to go home empty. But, regardless of rap’s big showing and a surprise cameo from Hillary Clinton, the Grammy’s belonged to Mars.
The singer spent some time during one acceptance speech marveling at how far he’d come, sharing with the audience memories of performing old school R&B hits for tourists, watching them dancing together and just having fun. Happiness was a theme in his conversation, and at one point Mars summed up his motivation for performing: “All I ever wanted to do with this album was write songs with nothing but joy…”
And, while joy was certainly a prominent emotion on the stage and among Mars’ legions of fans, there were more than a few professional and amateur music critics who felt Lamar got robbed. They made their opinions known on social media during and immediately following the awards broadcast.
Countless rap fans felt Lamar got slighted, that he had the better album and should have won at least that award, if not others Mars took home. Some are blaming too-high expectations for the angry response to Mars’ wins. For days leading up to the Grammys, many pop culture and music reporters teased the show as rap’s coming out party. Lamar was expected to elevate the craft above the height achieved even by superstars like Eminem and Dr. Dre. He would win, and win and win and win.
That idea was bolstered by Lamar’s hard-hitting performance to open the show. Fans were on the edge of their seats, filled with expectation. Then Lamar started winning: once, twice … five times. But he was shut out of the biggest awards of the night. Fans saw trophies in the biggest categories go to the guy many are calling the second coming of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. That throwback tip of the hat to pop-rock was not lost on Lamar’s fans.
Lamar did clean up in the rap category, and his opening performance was a big hit with viewers in the room and at home. But what many thought would be his night turned out to belong, once again, to Bruno Mars.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.