Voices: Why the Grammys may show what we can expect from the Oscars

Beyoncé accepts the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album for ‘Renaissance’ during the 65th Grammy Awards on 5 February 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Beyoncé accepts the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album for ‘Renaissance’ during the 65th Grammy Awards on 5 February 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

After two years of Covid disruptions and semi-remote ceremonies, awards shows are staging their own renaissance.

The 2023 season has brought us an uncompromising Golden Globes return, after last year’s TV broadcast was canceled when it was reported that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which organises them, did not include a single Black member. Exciting Oscars nominations were announced. And on Sunday night, the Grammys took place in Los Angeles, with Trevor Noah hosting. It was a historic ceremony in more ways than one: Beyoncé became the single artist with the most Grammys to her name, and Viola Davis became the 18th ever artist to achieve EGOT status (meaning she has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony).

And if what we are witnessing is the beginning of an awards show renaissance (it’s too early for a definitive pronouncement – the Oscars are still a month away!) then it will go hand-in-hand with a blockbuster renaissance of sorts. This, after all, was the year ABBA went into the Grammys ceremony with four major nominations. This was the year they battled it out with Adele, Beyoncé, Lizzo, and ultimate winner Harry Styles for Album of the Year. All five acts were also up for Record of the Year, which went to Lizzo for “About Damn Time”. Styles won for the pop-y album Harry’s House, and Lizzo for a disco-infused hit.

The list of Grammy winners also includes Taylor Swift (for Best Music Video) and Adele (for Best Pop Solo Performance). In other words, the Grammys celebrated artists we have been in love with for a long time, and celebrated a number of upbeat anthems (Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” was crowned Best R&B Song; Harry’s House is the album that includes the sweet “As it Was”, and I think we’ve all danced at least once to “About Damn Time”.)

Earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled a delightfully rich Best Picture category. The celebrated Everything Everywhere All at Once joins the cerebral Tár, the poignant Women Talking, the flamboyant Elvis, the legacy-infused (it was directed and co-written by Steven Spielberg) The Fabelmans, the tragicomic The Banshees of Inisherin, as well as the two biggest blockbusters in years: Top Gun: Maverick, and Avatar: The Way of Water.

Both films are sequels that were so long-awaited they marked not the continuation of a franchise, but their resurrection. Enough time had passed since the first installment (13 for Avatar, a whopping 36 years for Top Gun) that the new installments could not rely just on pre-existing enthusiasm; they had to court a new generation of fans, too. It was a true test of audiences: Were they ready, and willing, to rekindle these old flames? The box office certainly said so (both movies were considerable commercial successes), but the Oscars nominations add another layer of vindication. The audience, the critics, and now, the industry tastemakers have spoken, and they are all giving blockbusters a chance.

And why shouldn’t they, when our current blockbuster-y output is that good? Top Gun: Maverick faced an impossible task (following up on a beloved classic) and went above and beyond. Avatar: The Way of Water brought delighted fans back to Pandora. Similarly, it would have been unimaginable for the Grammys not to recognize Beyoncé’s triumphant work on Renaissance, or Lizzo’s continued chart-topping success.

It’s not that we’re necessarily craving old favorites (although there would be nothing wrong with that), it’s that our old favorites have managed to reinvent themselves so spectacularly that they remain at the top of their game. Some stars simply don’t fade.