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Have the Billboard Music Awards Forgotten the Art Form?

Updated on August 5, 2012

Naughty Paris Hilton

What are you licking Paris?
What are you licking Paris?

A critical assessment of the Billboard nominations and awards

On Sunday the 20th of May, the 2012 Billboard Music Awards were held. The usual suspects hogged the spotlight. Audiences were treated to a roll call that included Katy Perry, Adele, LMFAO and Coldplay. [1]Unsurprisingly there was a decidedly American bias which has permeated the entire entertainment industry. That is why many British bands are simply dying to ‘make it big’ across the Atlantic.

Were these awards justified and relevant? One of the main strengths associated with the entertainment industry is its diversity. Therefore audiences can easily choose to listen to Lady Gaga as opposed to Adele. They can choose rap music over hip-hop. By and large, the award ceremonies have done a great job of highlighting new musical genres. That does not necessarily mean that they are all relevant.

The politics and contradictions of music awards

Many artists will stage serious campaign strategies that are designed to give them an opportunity to go away with something. These practices may be pushing the ethical boundaries to the limit but they remain a real hallmark of the entertainment industry. In fact the professionalization of PR has meant that the spontaneous discovery of new bands is virtually nonexistent.

What about the nostalgia? The 2012 Billboard Music Awards paid a touching tribute to Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees who recently passed away after battling cancer for some time. The entertainment industry has also been mourning the loss of Whitney Houston, an outstanding vocalist whose searing talent was wrecked by an addiction to drugs and bad decisions. These fallen stars are the fabric that lays the foundation for the current entertainment industry.

The self congratulation can be contrived and some of the tributes are plainly insincere. Great artists like Michael Jackson can grow bigger even after death because their audiences pick up new nuances to their art. The opposite is true of the manufactured bands which rise and fade with alarming regularity. Perhaps the awards should only be dished out once the singer has established a presence for more than 2 decades.

The decision to award certain artists while neglecting others

It is interesting to read some of the blog comments following reports of a given award. Some members of the audience are certainly not satisfied with the selection criteria. They suspect that politics rather than art is at play. Of course some tributes are virtually unassailable such as the one that was given by Taio Cruz to Robin Gibb: “I’m definitely going to be listening to their music for years to come. I think they will live on through their music and so that’s a good thing.”

A coterie of so called experts will pollute the air with their largely biased reviews of an award ceremony. It should be a matter of concern that the Billboard Music Awards are also accompanied by the selection of the ‘best red carpet look’. Are the fashion choices of Carrie Underwood on the day really relevant to music? There is a danger that the vacuous and irrelevant is given a place at the high table while real music is neglected.

A future where music means something

In order for music awards to make any sense, the commercial aspects have to be minimized. For example those glossy advertisers who are looking for their pound of flesh might not be the best choice for the organizing committee. Likewise there ought to be a lot more audience participation in the selection process so as to reduce the incidence of skewed selections.

There is no doubt that music plays an important role in society in general and culture in particular. Nobody is advocating for the Billboard Music Awards and similar events to be abolished. Rather the important thing is to ensure that they accurately reflect the popular musical traditions as well as the intrinsic value of art in all its forms. In that way this industry will not descend into irrelevance.


  1. ABC,” 2012 Billboard Music Awards: Adele, Coldplay, LMFAO Win Big, Katy Perry Given Spotlight Award”, 21st May 2012, ABC News,

Billboard Music Awards 2012

Billboard Music Awards 2012
Billboard Music Awards 2012 | Source

2012 Billboard Music Awards


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