As I’m listening to and studying the nominees for the 2016 Grammys, I’ve started looking at past recipients and how the awards have changed over the years. For instance, the biggest award of the show, Album of the Year, was originally just given to the main artist, but they expanded it to include the main artist, the featured artist(s), the producer(s), the engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) and the mastering engineer(s). Basically it’s given to everyone who contributes to the album making process, which I think is great because it recognizes everyone’s work and how it contributed to make the album the best of the year. I actually think they should do this for the genre categories for best album (e.g. Best Country Album is just given to the main artist and not the whole team). That being said, Album of the Year recognizes everyone except songwriters.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and the Grammys should include the songwriters in this group. For instance, Taylor Swift won Album of the Year in 2010 for her second album Fearless . Liz Rose, Swift’s long time cowriter and collaborator, was not part of this Grammy-winning team despite the fact she cowrite four of the songs on the album with Swift (Rose did win Best Country Song with Swift that year for “White Horse,” a songwriter’s award). Three of those songs Rose cowrote were three of the five hit singles from the album (“White Horse,” “You Belong with Me,” and “Fearless”), one of which won two Grammys (“White Horse”) and one nominated for three (“You Belong with Me”). It could be argued that without Liz Rose, Fearless would not have been the album that it was because Swift might not have finished the four songs Rose cowrote, or if she did it would not have been at the level they were at that won her Album of the Year.
Swift and Rose winning Best Country Song for “White Horse”
Colbie Caillat, on the other hand, cowrote one song (“Breathe”) with Swift and provided background vocals, earning her the role of featured artist. This therefore entitled her to the Album of the Year Grammy despite the fact that she worked on only one song on the album whereas Rose worked on four.
Without the songwriters, the album literally could not be made. How can you produce, record, sing, or make an album if there is nothing written? You would have nothing to perform. And is it really fair to give someone who is only featured in only seconds of one song on the album the biggest award of the music industry just because they’re “featured” and not someone who literally is the root creator of the album?
I realize the Grammys have to draw a line of recipients because obviously it take a lot more people to create and promote an album than who would get the award, but I think songwriters are too important to overlook. Granted, nowadays a lot of the songwriters are the performer and/or producer, but like Rose, some are solely writers. You can’t have a great album without great songs, and you can’t have great songs without great songwriters.