Sam Smith swept the Grammys last night with four awards – Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Pop Vocal Album – proving that one stolen melody can really go a long way. Although Smith and Tom Petty have decided to reconcile their dispute outside of court, given that Petty receives a cut of the “Stay with Me” profits and a Grammy certificate as co-writer, it doesn’t change the fact that the song’s success was largely dependent upon someone else’s material.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few years ago, Coldplay was accused of song-stealing from both Joe Satriani and Yusuf Isalm for their Grammy Award-winning hit “Viva La Vida,” and decades of artists from Led Zeppelin to One Direction have also undergone such investigations, which only supports the postmodern theory that originality is dying, if not already dead.
Even when a truly talented, enduring, and creative multi-instrumentalist like Beck finally receives recognition for Best Album, he is criticized by Kanye West (naturally), first in a self-deprecating throwback to his Taylor Swift diss, then literally on the E! After Show where he said:
“All I know is if the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. ‘Flawless,’ Beyoncé video. Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it.”
Not that Kanye is an authority on capital-A Art anyway, or politeness for that matter, but he does influence much of our culture, and this is unfortunate. We need more artists like Beck receiving awards because, contrary to Kanye’s claim, Beck does encourage real art and musical progress. Not that I don’t love Bey, but Beck deserved that award, especially during a show that supported melodic theft a few too many times.