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Chance The Rapper, who?

Pop music fans in Singapore will cheer Adele's big haul at the Grammys this year, but when it comes to the other big winner, they might find themselves going, "Chance The Rapper, who?"

Apart from Adele - whose third 25 won Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance - the bulk of the winners at the 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles hardly reflects the state of the recent Top 10 charts here.

25 is one of the best-selling pop albums in recent years and tracks such as lead single, Hello, have spent considerable time in the radio and streaming charts here.

One can't say the same for Blackstar, the winning album by the night's second-biggest winner, the late music icon David Bowie.

The Thin White Duke's older songs, including Let's Dance and Under Pressure, have become mainstream hits here.

But the tunes off his final album Blackstar, which won him Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Recording Package and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, aren't exactly chart-toppers here.

And Chance The Rapper, who won Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album, is probably familiar only to hip-hop rap enthusiasts here; in the popularity stakes, he's not in the same league as, say, Kanye West, or Drake, who picked up Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song.

It's a shame that Chance The Rapper and David Bowie's wins do not reflect the popular taste here.

Blackstar - Bowie's last work, released just two days before he died of cancer last year - is significant because it's an intriguing and layered release made while the star was very much aware that he was dying.

For his part, Chance The Rapper has made Grammy history because his Grammy wins represent a landmark change.

Up until last year, only albums released on physical formats were up for nomination. When this rule was changed, his album, Coloring Book, available only on streaming services, became a contender. It's a sign that the Grammy committee is willing to make changes to reflect the changing music landscape.

Local fans should follow that lead, instead of letting algorithms suggest music for them to listen to.

One music act who has had an unusually large presence at the top of the charts in Singapore in the past year is The Chainsmokers. The American EDM duo managed only one win - Best Dance Recording - despite being nominated in other, more prestigious, categories, such as Best New Artist and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

That's the whole point of award shows such as the Grammys - it's not a popularity contest and it should never turn into one.

The winners aren't the big sellers or the chart-toppers, they're the ones whom the academy of voters feel have made quality contributions to contemporary music in the past year.

There are enough big music award shows out there based on fan votes, such as the American Music Awards, and chart positions, such as the Billboard Music Awards.

Yet, sometimes, it's hard to argue against cynics who say that giving Adele the major gongs is a way to generate buzz among the large army of mainstream music listeners, a way to flatter the majority of the music-listening public into thinking the works they like are relevant.

After all, multiple wins by acts such as Adele and Taylor Swift generate a lot more publicity for the Grammys than when left-of-the-dial winners such as Canadian indie-rockers Arcade Fire picked up Album of the Year in 2011 for their third release, The Suburbs.

•The repeat telecast of The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will be shown on Feb 19, 10pm on Star World (StarHub TV Channel 501).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Chance The Rapper, who?'. Print Edition | Subscribe