The Problem With The Headies Nominees List (OPEN FACT)



Yesterday, while Nigerians were (im)patiently awaiting President Buhari’s promised list of ministers to steer the country’s ship for the next 4 years, another list of a different but no less important sort- at least for music lovers- was released. Nigeria’s biggest and most buzzed about music industry rewarding system unveiled the nominees for this year’s awards.

As is the case with any credible awards platform, the immediate reaction to the Headies announcement ranged from squeals of delight, sighs of relief, to surprise, shock and outrage. In this day of the internet, not even the Oscars can get away without criticism or scrutiny for those it chooses to honour. Recall this year’s heated diversity debate.
The Headies aren’t quite Oscar status level yet but in these parts, they matter to the culture in many ways. Whether they are handing yet another plaque to 2face Idibia or gifting Omawumi with the keys to a brand new car, the ceremony formerly known as the Hip Hop World Awards has generated moments that have come to shape contemporary music culture.

At every point in time, the Headies reflect the state of the music industry. Nominees and winners are pooled from the crop of what is available in terms of released music within the eligibility period so the Headies team cannot be blamed for the quality of music that is available to them to sift through.

But as a body seeking the credibility and trust of both industry players and music lovers, it behoves the Headies to be seen to set about their business with the utmost precision and attention to detail, such that at the end of the day, the platform can be said to be above board, clear to all that the very best was put into the search to reward excellence. So while the team isn’t responsible for the quality- or lack of- of the year’s records, it is responsible for making the very best effort to search for and reward the best.

The 2015 nominees list hardly shows such painstaking effort. Covering the eligibility period from July 2014 to June 2015, the process as with previous years, still falls short. Sure every popular person or entry got nominated as expected, but if the awards is expecting to maintain any shred of credibility in future days, it needs to stop restricting itself to popular music and cast a wider net. Right now, the awards appear to be for the biggest hits, noisiest fellows or most aggrieved players.

No one came in expecting the likes of Olamide, WIzkid and Kiss Daniel to not be nominated, but a good number of people would also love to see the year’s actual best work represented. The music industry certainly isn’t restricted to what is on Top 20 radio.
With due respect to everyone concerned, The Headies 2015 nominees list represents a careless unwillingness to step out of the industry’s A-list surface. Thus if you were popular within the year for any particular reason, you are likely to get in. if not, then good luck to you.

The total snubbing of Brymo, the artiste who for 2 straight years now has made the best albums of the year in terms of quality is shocking. Tabula Rasa may not have arrived with all the hype of MI’s Chairman or approached the sales figures of P-Square’s Double Trouble but if the Headies guys mean any word of the “excellence and acceptability” rules they claim to be guided by as standards, then the whole process is suspect.

A stubborn lack of diversity that would be shocking if we weren’t used to the Headies narrow taste in music continues to rear its head. Even a category like Best Alternative song is studded with mainstream releases. Unless of course their idea of alternative means anything that isn’t eligible to be played in the clubs.

There seems to be no deep understanding of what the categories represent. If Asa’s album is nominated in the Pop/R&B category, why is her single from the same album listed in the Alternative class? In what universe is Falz the Bad guy identified as Street? Isn’t it time to retire the Hip Hop World Revelation category considering the Next Rated is really the reward platform for the best new artiste? Don’t even get us started on the final cut for Album of the year and why is this category even a voting one?

It isn’t enough to sit back and ask artistes and their management to send in stuff during the call for entries, sometimes to make the process a little less cartoonish, it may be wiser to put in institutional research. Also accommodating a younger, hip and more discerning slew of music journalists and critics who aren’t enslaved to hit singles only into the selection process may shake things up a bit and add some excitement.

At this year’s Emmy’s, the rules were revised and new academy members were allowed to vote in key categories. The immediate result was a noticeable upswing in rewarding diverse programming, Viola Davis won, Regina King won, and a lot more ladies won in the technical departments. Game of Thrones, a genre show scored a long deserved Best Drama win in its fifth season.

It is time for the Headies to revise their own rules. If such rules actually do exist that is.

– Wilfred Okiche


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