Are The American Music Awards Really “Punishing” Kanye West? (Probably Not, No)

noah | October 14, 2009 10:00 am

Here is what happens when you let your “content” be ruled by the twin towers of cheap snark and search-engine optimization: You get idiotic blog posts like this one at infotainment clearinghouse E! that claims that Kanye West was shut out of the nominee field at this year’s American Music Awards because of people still being peeved about the whole Video Music Awards debacle in which he ran on stage while Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video. Because hey, it’s fun to pile on celebrities and tut-tut your outrage in their general direction, right? Luckily (at least in this case), the American Music Awards are supposedly not determined by such emotional concerns—instead, as the press release accompanying yesterday’s nominee announcement noted, “Nominees were selected from data supplied by The Nielsen Company’s Broadcast Data Systems, which monitors radio airplay performance, and Soundscan, which tracks retail music sales.” So let’s go to the numbers! Herewith, the SoundScan numbers (through Oct. 11) for the three 2009 nominees, Kanye West’s 2008 effort 808s and Heartbreak, and Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III (since it is the biggest-selling hip-hop album of the past two years):

T.I., Paper Trail (1.522m in 2008 since Sept. 30 release; 496,000 in 2009; total 2.01m) Eminem, Relapse (1.46m since its release May 19) Jay-Z, Blueprint 3 (996,000 since its release Sept. 9) Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak (1.023m in 2008 since Nov. 24 release; 579,000 in 2009; total 1.602m) Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III (2.874m in 2008 since June 10 release; 392,000 in 2009; total 3.266m)

Now, it’s true that 808s has so far outsold both Relapse and Blueprint 3 cumulatively, although it had a good length of time to extend its lead; given the velocity in sales for the two more recent albums—Relapse sold 12,000 copies in the chart week ending Oct. 11, while Blueprint sold 89,000—I’d think that by the time the Nov. 22 telecast rolls around, at least one of those albums could best the total reached by 808s up to this point. So why Paper Trail over 808s, then? Probably because four of the singles from T.I.’s album reached the Billboard Hot 100’s top five, including the two No. 1s “Live Your Life” and “Whatever You Like”; meanwhile, two of 808s‘ singles made that much of an impact. The note that Broadcast Data Systems’ numbers factor into who gets nominated means that radio airplay counts toward decisions over who makes the cut, and T.I. clearly dominates on the “hip-hop albums released after the cutoff for the 2008 awards” front. Perhaps we should look at the R&B category, too—after all, 808s did have an awful lot of vocalizing by Mr. West. Again, let’s look at sales for the three nominees in the category, and Kanye.

Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce (1,459,000 in 2008 since Nov. 8 release; 977,000 in 2009; total 2.436m) Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D. (1.169m since its release June 9) Michael Jackson, Number Ones (1.908m in 2009; data for 2008 unavailable) Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak (1.023m in 2008 since Nov. 24 release; 579,000 in 2009; total 1.602m)

Again, Kanye does outsell the Black Eyed Peas straight-up; again, he also has the advantage of time. And really, how can you have an R & B category in a 2009 awards show without the group that was the only thing to challenge Michael Jackson’s chart supremacy this summer? I mean, honestly. I get that it’s fun to make a Swift Boat “joke” five years and change after the fact, but c’mon, people, let’s at least base our cheap shots in things resembling reality! [Uberblog via the never-reliable-except-for-lulz] Earlier: Michael Jackson Should Really Just Be Nominated For Every American Music Award At This Point Related: Why Snark Works