The 19th edition of undoubtedly the biggest event on Ghana’s music calendar, the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) came off last Saturday, 14th April, 2018. The post-mortem of the event has been expectedly replete with the perennial criticisms directed at the purportedly surprising winners of some of the categories. The surprises have become an inevitable phenomenon attached to the scheme. One of such criticisms has been leveled against the Album of the Year category which was won by the late Ebony who was also crowned the Artiste of the Year on the night.
The critics are of the view that Ebony’s Bonyfied album was not the album which most deserved to win the category. They are of the view that albums such as Stonebwoy’s Epistles of Mama (EOM) or Sarkodie’s Highest album were better placed to win the category than Ebony’s Bonyfied album.
To ascertain the soundness or the justification for the views or criticisms being submitted by the critics, I will prefer to initially state a fundamental assertion that, for every scheme or establishment, there is what a status quo or criteria IS and there is what it OUGHT to be. What it IS, is the actual prevailing applicable status quo governing the scheme whilst what it OUGHT to be is premised on one’s personal opinion with respect to what he thinks should be applicable status quo to govern the scheme. In the event of any review or the construction of any argument in reaction to the winner of a category, the former, which is what the status quo actually IS should be yardstick for any argument raised. This is because, the prevailing status quo is the conglomerate of the basis for adjudging the winners for the various categories.
For the Album of the Year category, which is the subject of this article, the basis for adjudging the winner is provided by the organizers of the scheme as follows:
The Album of the Year is adjudged by the Academy and Board as the most outstanding compilation of hit songs on an album that was released during the year under review. It must have generated the most excitement during the year.
With this fundamental premise elucidated, I will now proceed to consider the soundness or otherwise of the views being adduced by the critics against Ebony’s annexation of the Album of the Year award. The nominees for the Album of the Year category at this year’s VGMAs were as follows:
Ebony – Bonyfied (Winner)
Stonebwoy – Epistles of Mama
Sarkodie – Highest
MzVee – Daavi
A scrutiny of the category definition stated above displays patently that the substantive and sole requirement that must be fulfilled to accord an album with enormous chances of winning the Album of the Year category is popularity. The most deserving album, as stated in the category definition must be a compilation of hit songs which generate the most excitement during the year. The basis is therefore strictly contingent on popularity. The category definition does not make mention of album sales (neither traditional nor digital), degree of penetration of album beyond the borders of Ghana, rating of album on international charts, quality of production of album, artistic value, inter alia. Meanwhile, these are the bases upon which the critics are opining that albums like EOM and Highest deserved it better than Bonyfied.
However, in relating the category definition stated supra to the nominated albums for this year’s VGMAs, it becomes appropriate and sound to posit that the late Ebony’s Bonyfied album best deserved to win the award. Yes, undoubtedly, Stonebwoy’s EOM and Sarkodie’s Highest are masterpieces which bear astronomical levels of artistic value, quality of production, solid content and international appeal. However, in terms of popularity of the songs which make up the nominated albums, Ebony’s Bonyfied moves higher than the other albums. Bonyfied has the most hit songs and therefore renders it more deserving in relation to the category definition than the other albums. This is an album which possesses hit songs such as Poison, Hustle, Sponsor, Date Your Father, Dance floor, Aseda and Maame Hw3. With the presence of these monster hits which generated enough excitement in the year under review on a single project, it places Highest, EOM and Daavi in a position lacking proximity with Bonyfied in terms of popularity, the paramount criteria for clinching the award for this category.
This is what we have as the current status quo and the album which wins is the product of the status quo. I personally have issues with the category definition provided above but my opinion with respect to what it OUGHT to be should not be the yardstick for formulating my views on the award winners because my desired status quo is not the applicable prevailing status quo but rather, the applicable one is the existing category definition which is what it actually IS.
I am personally of the view that the definition of the Album of the Year category must be amended by way of decreasing the excessive priority given to popularity or hit songs. At least there must be some balancing by considering the artistic value, quality of productions, marketing and distribution, degree of demographic penetration, etc as well. With the current status quo, it creates room for any smart artiste to just compile his hit singles in a year and release it as an album in the latter part of the year with some few unreleased songs added to it. When this becomes the norm, it will injure the anticipations made by music patrons ahead of album releases because the anticipation or enthusiasm becomes infinitesimal if one knows that most of the songs on the album are already out there.
Also, with the existing category definition, some excellently conceived projects might never be considered because there were no popular songs on it and were also not released by artistes with established brands who can rely on the strength of their brands to earn nominations. When the category definition is amended to include the criteria I Listed in the preceding paragraph, projects such as Quabena Akan’s Onipa Akoma, Worlasi’s Outerlane, amongst others must be nominated when submitted.
By Seth Mireku.