With Apple’s pivot to services comes a whole new realm of advertising opportunities for convincing us to buy those services. It should come as little surprise, then, that its recently announced Apple Music Awards sure seem like just that: an ad.
Apple announced Monday that its Apple Music Awards will be held Wednesday at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino (where else) and will have five primary categories: Global Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. The event will feature a live performance by teen crooner Billie Eilish, who is also the recipient of Apple’s Artist of the Year award, plus the winner of two of the four remaining distinctions. That makes sense when Apple explains how it arrived at that decision.
Eilish’s WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?—which also happened to be Apple Music’s most-streamed album of the year—will take home Album of the Year. Eilish will also take home Songwriter of the Year, which will be jointly awarded to Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell—known by the stage name FINNEAS—who helped produce and write the album. That leaves two remaining categories and little room for error on Apple’s part.
Flutist, rapper, dancer, and veritable national treasure Lizzo will take home Apple’s Breakthrough Artist of the Year distinction—and deservedly so. Give Lizzo every single award, to be clear. But this, too, is a clear and uncontroversial call on Apple’s part. Her single “Truth Hurts” off the album Cuz I Love You was not only a critical sensation but shattered records, including by becoming the longest-running track by a solo female rapper to hold the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list. As of this writing, “Truth Hurts” still holds a spot on Apple Music’s Global Top 100 list.
That leaves Song of the Year, which will of course go to Lil Nas X for “Old Town Road,” which again, is not exactly a tough call considering it broke Billboard’s Top 100 record for longest-running No. 1 track of all time earlier this year and was the most-streamed track of 2019 on Apple Music, according to Apple.
The Global Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and Breakthrough Artist of the Year distinctions were “hand-selected by Apple Music’s global editorial team of experts and tastemakers and given to artists who have true passion for their craft, who boldly defy conventions in the category and who embody a sense of humanity, where listeners are drawn as much to who they are as to their music,” the company said. The other two—Album of the Year and Song of the Year—were based on streaming data.
In other words, Apple’s leaning on its growing editorial units and billing itself as a kind of arbiter of taste while also playing the same weird numbers game as every other awards show or ceremony. The problem with that is that none of its winners are all that surprising. Again, these are not difficult calls to make, folks!
They do, however, present Apple with a unique ad op for reminding us about its subscription music service, just as its recently announced App Awards, reminds us well designed and good looking apps can still be found on the App Store. Hell, even the physical award itself is an ad for Apple products. Apple said in its press release that “the same chips which power the devices that put the world’s music at your fingertips sit at the very heart of the Apple Music Awards.”
Maybe we’ll get a surprise performance from Lizzo on Wednesday. At least that would make this whole thing worth Apple’s hype.