Despite scoring an industry-leading eight nominations, JAY-Z walked away empty-handed from the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards this past Sunday evening.
While some believe Jay split votes with Kendrick Lamar in several major categories, leading to Bruno Mars sweeping Album of the Year (24k Magic), Record of the Year (“24k Magic”) and Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”), it’s also possible the lack of a true “radio single” on 4:44 meant that fewer voting member ears actually listened to the full body of work.
In an interview on Ebro In The Morning prior to the awards ceremony, 4:44 producer No I.D. revealed that, during the construction of the album, Jay expressed a desire to have at least one track that could be pushed as “the single,” but together they decided against it.
“I kept referencing [Marvin Gaye’s] What’s Going On when we was working,” No I.D. said. “We were gettin’ near the end and he’d be like, ‘Let’s go for the…’ And I’d be like, ‘Let’s not put ‘Sexual Healing’ on Whats Going On. I know radio, I know the club, but let’s just do this one. You already got the catalog. You won. You won five times, 10 times, whatever. But this one…”
For some, the overall quality of an album is often (unfairly) based on its most notable single selections, but as No I.D. went on to explain, a project should never be judged by its best material, but rather by its worst.
“An album, to me, is measured by the worst song, not the best song,” he said. “The ‘bad’ songs make an album not classic. You could have the most amazing records on the record, and you got two bad records, it ain’t a classic though.”
4:44 is already Platinum (largely thanks to Sprint), the album is among the highest-rated of Jay’s entire career, and its corresponding tour is his highest-grossing solo run ever. It’s possible a hit single could have meant greater success for the album—which has never been made available for stream on TIDAL rival Spotify—which, in turn, might have helped Jay add to his impressive collection of gilded gramophones, but just as No I.D. explained, Jay is past the point of chasing hits.
4:44 isn’t Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, but, as a legacy project, over time it will likely be remembered in a similar vein.