Yes, you read it correctly…I, the guy who was practically reared on Billboard Magazine and who is known for citing its data often, am recommending that you not watch the only popular music awards show that uses Billboard Magazine’s chart information to determine its winners.
Before I give you the reasons, let me preface this by telling you that I still have a subscription to Billboard, the music industry’s most reliable and (perhaps) most trustworthy trade publication, and I’ve had it on-and-off for decades. I’ve watched the mag undergo many changes as the music it reports about and – maybe even more importantly – the technology in and around it have evolved.
But, as an avid reader of Billboard, and maybe because of that fact, I recommend that you not watch the 2015 Billboard Music Awards for anything other than perhaps its entertainment value. At the very least, if you watch it, I suggest that you not give much credence to the awards themselves. Without further ado, here are my five reasons:
1. The awards season is over. At least for the ones that really matter in the entertainment industry. The BBMAs are airing in mid-May. At this point, who cares about 2014’s music anymore? (See #2 below for an explanation for why most of the honorees are from last year.) The Grammys and the American Music Awards very capably recognized the musical accomplishments of last year and they both aired at a time when much of that music was still in our collective psyche. The BBMAs, which used to air during the crowded awards season at the turn of each year, now occur at a time of the year when their ratings are less likely to be dwarfed by the big dogs. Shrewd marketing move? Sure. But we’ve long since moved on to 2015 and most of the tunes being recognized will feel stale as a result.
2. The year’s biggest Billboard hits won’t be recognized as such. (Ok, I know this sounds a little like the prior reason, but hear me out.) The biggest Hot 100 single of 2014 was “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Billboard magazine said so in its year-end issue back in December. The biggest Hot 100 hit of 2015 (so far and by far) is “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. It spent 14 weeks at #1 between January and April – more than any other song this decade. Yet neither song is a finalist in the Top Hot 100 song category for the BBMAs. Why? Well, the chart period that the show’s producers are using is from March 2014 to March 2015. That sliding of the calendar by three months into 2015 means that all of the “chart points” for “Happy” that occurred during the first three months of 2014 were erased when the BBMAs calculated the Hot 100 song nominations.
Similarly, by cutting off the eligibility period in March 2015, only the first three months or so of “Uptown Funk!” (or about half of its overall points to date) are counted. In all likelihood, when the actual Billboard rankings of 2015’s biggest hits are released in December, the Bronson and Mars juggernaut will be hauling in several trophies, including Top Hot 100 song. But not at the BBMAs. It’s enough to make your head spin.
3. This will likely be the Taylor Swift Show. After all, in the past nine months she’s had a huge #1 album and three top ten singles, two of which hit #1. She’s a finalist in over a dozen categories and all of her accomplishments are indeed commendable. But when you break down the nominations, many of them are redundant. For example, she’s listed for Top Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Hot 100 Singles Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Billboard 200 Albums Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, you get the picture. None of this is meant to discredit Swift, it’s just the way Billboard has broken down its year-end chart rankings for eons. While Taylor Swift and her “1989” album certainly deserve consideration as the year’s biggest artist and album, respectively, and many non-discerning fans will enjoy seeing her make repeated trips to the podium where she’ll feign surprise and awe, to music industry followers this will all seem too made-for-TV.
4. Too Predictable. I don’t mean predictable in the sense that the same artists win every year on every awards show. I mean this from the standpoint that the BBMAs are a victim of the chart-based approach they use to create the awards. Take the two categories of Top (Overall) Artist and Top Group, for example. There are five recording artists in each category and groups (i.e., non-solo artists) are eligible for both. In the Top Artist category only one group, One Direction, is listed as a finalist. Take a wild guess which band will win the Top Group award? Sorry Maroon 5, Florida Georgia Line, MAGIC! and 5 Seconds of Summer, but the writings are on the Top Artist wall.
A similar situation exists for the Top Artist and Top New Artist fields. Sam Smith is the only common name in both lists of finalists, so he is a winner of the New Artist trophy by default.
5. The BBMAs are trying to be something they’re not. By now you’ve likely figured out that the BBMAs “figured out” these awards two months ago when the Billboard chart books were closed and the computers finished crunching the numbers. Yet the BBMAs and their source magazine would have you believe that the jury is still out or that there was some factor other than chart performance that might dictate the outcome. In its marketing campaign it uses such phrases as artists are “duking it out” and “vying for wins” as if the outcome wasn’t already determined by their record sales and airplay. Billboard has even created polls for its readers to vote on “who should win Top Latin Artist honor at the 2015 BBMAs?” for example.
“Should” win? Really? I’ll answer: it’s the artist who sold the most and received the most airplay and streaming points during the eligible chart period, that’s who. The fans cast their votes when they bought, downloaded or streamed the songs between March and March. Contest decided.
In other words, when it comes down to it, Billboard is a long-standing, well-respected music trade publication that is all about charts and data. It uses the metrics of sales and airplay (and streaming) each week to determine the most commercially successful music products on the market. It’s not a measure of who’s “best,” or whether a song or album is creatively better than another. All of that is subjective. Instead, it’s strictly and simply data that is compiled on a weekly basis and at the end of each year to determine who’s sold the most and which artists received the most radio play and streams. The BBMAs are based on that data yet they’re trying to create the impression that there’s something more to it.
The BBMAs should return to December or January and truly recognize the calendar year’s biggest hits – as its source magazine Billboard does – and leave the more subjective editorialized style of awards shows to the Grammys and AMAs.
But if you’re only watching for the pure entertainment of it, by all means enjoy.