At Song Last: Like the GRAMMYs, life can often lead to disappointment

Ryan Song | Daily Trojan

Who else was furious that Bruno Mars won Best Album over Kendrick Lamar at the GRAMMY Awards this past Sunday?

After the rapper had already lost the coveted award twice, I was certain that the Grammys would follow the popular saying, “third time’s the charm,” and give Kendrick the highest honors. DAMN. was his most commercially successful album, as it received a double platinum in the United States and reached No. 1 on the Billboard’s Top 200 Albums of the Year.

As I searched through the internet, I stumbled upon a tweet claiming the Grammys always goes with the “safest” pick when it comes to their awards. It was at this moment that I realized I would never find satisfaction if I continued to operate within a rigid set of expectations for my life.

Just as fans learn to face harsh realities when their favorite artists are not recognized, we each must learn how to face the harsh reality that life doesn’t always go as planned. The biggest problems that plague my life are the expectations I set for myself. I entertain ideas that certain events will happen in specific ways, and whenever a scenario doesn’t play out exactly how I wanted it to, I become more frustrated than I should be. This reaction can result from something as significant as rushing a friend’s fraternity to something as meaningless as mapping out the exact path I take to class.

I suppose one thing I should get in the habit of doing is thinking realistically. Usually, I’m so focused on trying to get things to happen my way that I don’t bother wondering what would happen if something happened differently.

For instance, when I transferred to USC, I hoped to maintain the same circle of friends I already had here in Southern California as I settled in. However, one of my friends advised me to create new social circles, suggesting that we may not be able to meet as frequently as I initially hoped. At the time, I misunderstood him and took this to be a passive-aggressive way to cut all connections with me. My mother later explained the reality of the situation and my friend’s wisdom in wanting me to find my own niche in the USC community. Blinded by my own selfishness, I completely overreacted.

Art by Adriana Sanchez | Daily Trojan

Perhaps it was the long and arduous goal of transferring to USC that laid the foundation for my fixed set of expectations. I was so intent on transferring that I was unwilling to consider any alternative options. Although I had already been rejected during freshman admissions, I knew I wanted to attend this University.

And yet, alternative outcomes are never as bad as you originally think. I was originally devastated that I did not get into USC as a high school senior, but being able to transfer as a sophomore ended up being the best path for me. As for how this lesson relates to the dashed hopes and dreams of music lovers, one must consider the various factors that go into decisions like the Grammys.

Looking back on this Sunday, I have come to accept that Bruno Mars appealed more to Grammy voters. 24K Magic was arguably his most successful album, and his other wins for Best Song and Best Record reflected this. He recently dropped the successful “Finesse (Remix)” earlier this year, and took it to the stage with Cardi B for one of the best performances of the night. Much like his previous album, Mars’ approach to 24K Magic was to take inspiration from musical artists of the past decades, which is what likely drew the attention of voters. When all things are considered, 24K Magic isn’t a bad album.

On the other hand, DAMN. wasn’t nearly as awe-inspiring as good kid, m.A.A.d. city or To Pimp a Butterfly. Even though the 2017 album contained some of Kendrick’s most mainstream songs (yes, even more so than “Swimming Pools”), it also has a structure and loose narrative that could seem strange to mainstream listeners. Additionally, Kendrick himself said that winning awards like the Grammys does not confirm his success, after Macklemore publicly apologized for receiving an award over him. I still wanted Kendrick to win because he deserves the award. But I’ve come to accept Mars’ win.

When comparing Lamar’s and Mars’ albums, it became easy for me to realize that this was not a situation in which DAMN. was so amazing that it needed to win Best Album. It is much more complicated than that; award shows do not make decisions on objective quality alone. I guess I still have to learn to not have such rigid hopes because, as I heard Bono annonce Bruno Mars’ name, I thought, “Alright, this isn’t nearly as inexcusable as To Pimp a Butterfly losing to 1989.”

Ryan Song is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column, “At Song Last,” runs every other Thursday.