In 2008, Chris Brown and Rihanna were the top male and female pop singles artists in America, and both were just nominated for Grammy Awards. The music industry's highest honor has eluded Chris Brown so far, while Rihanna won a golden gramophone for "Umbrella" (best rap/sung collaboration) last year.
Rihanna's "Umbrella" was also up for one of the loftiest Grammy Awards — best record of the year — and many pundits believed it could win. Alas, it got skunked by Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."
Chris Brown has not yet received that kind of Grammy love. The highest category he's reached with a nomination has been best new artist, losing to Carrie Underwood. His other few bids were in the R&B slots. Now that he's tinged by scandal, can he ever win?
As Gold Derby often notes, bad boys don't win Oscars. Russell Crowe hasn't been nominated since he attacked that BAFTA producer and Manhattan hotel clerk. (Crowe apologized in the first incident and settled a lawsuit in the second.)
Since the Grammys are music's equivalent to the Oscars, the same issue applies. These academies represent the conservative establishments of their industries and they don't like to give awards to people who reflect poorly upon them. True, in music — especially in the R&B, rap, metal and hard rock genres— a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit is tolerated, sometimes celebrated, but that's because edginess drives mass music sales. That's not true of movies or TV, so that's why the Oscars and Emmys are even more conservative than the conservative Grammys.
But the Grammys can still be a bit fuddy-duddy. Rap artists who tend to win, for example, are more likely to be of the safe Will Smith or Jay-Z variety (four Grammys each) than the thuggish kind like Snoop Dog or Notorious B.I.G. (none). When gangsta rappers triumph, they tend to be of the establishment kind like Dr. Dre (four). Just a few years ago, music critics widely hailed 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Trying" as the best disc of the year, but its music couldn't break into the top Grammy races. 50 Cent's been nominated for Grammys but only in those second-tier slots. He's never won. When he was nominated for best new artist of 2004, he lost to Evanescence.