When Sturgill Simpson’s album, ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,’ was nominated for Album of the Year for the 59th Grammy Awards, he humbly proclaimed that he “would’ve liked to see Frank Ocean’s name where [his] is,” because he thought Ocean’s record, ‘Blonde,’ was “really groundbreaking.” Funny enough, Ocean did not submit his album for consideration, thereby removing him from contention. Ocean believes the “infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” and he might be right, but Simpson’s nomination represents a much bigger movement in the music industry, and here’s hoping it sends a message. First and foremost, he’s the only artist who wrote his entire album. Adele is a close second, with just one co-songwriter, but Beyonce’s much-praised ‘Lemonade’ has more songwriters than bagels at Yom Kippur. The same goes for Drake. And though I’m not a Bieber hater, I need not explain the alarming juxtaposition between the two artists, and It begs a bigger question about the what the Grammys truly represent. If Starry Night had been a collaborative effort between Vincent van Gough and his 25 cohorts, would we see it through the same lens?
Simpson has long been called a country music outlaw, refusing to cater to the confines of what has now become a homogenized songwriting factory in Nashville. There’s no more Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, or Willie Nelson, and Simpson is therefore considered to be the “savior” of a dying genre. Simpson himself might not see himself this way, and judging by his performance on Saturday Night Live, all he really sees is the music. His blues riff on “Call to Arms” lets his 11-piece band make a tiny stage with a small audience seem like an amphitheater. Watch both performances below.