“From the summer to the spring/From the mountain to the air/From Samaritan to sin/And it’s waiting on the air.” – ‘Into The Fire’ by Thirteen Senses
Lux Style Awards (LSAs) has completed a milestone by crossing 20 years of existence, with ceremony, and pomp. They take place nearly every year (except one particular year where the ceremony was toned down to a photoshoot but winners were still given their awards).
The ceremony being held year after year displayed a consistency that others simply lacked. The LSAs broke new ground in showmanship in myriad ways, including putting on a superb show in Malaysia in 2007, which is still considered as the gold standard as far as the ceremony itself goes.
Since the LSAs were established more than two decades ago, a number of other contemporary award ceremonies have come and gone. But the LSAs were the literal trailblazer, because apart from appearing every year, they also paid attention to various forms of the performing arts.
Since inception, the LSAs have been seen as our version of the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys, the Golden Globes and every significant award ceremony around the world packed into one.
Have the Lux Style Awards been followed by controversies from fan outrage due to their favourite artist(s) being snubbed or the industry whispering about who should’ve been nominated or have won? Yes. But that is also a part and parcel of the ceremony with fans involved in the overall process and opinions.
What was obvious from day one is that the Lux Style Awards would give fashion a bigger space. It was always going to be one of the ceremony’s strongest parts. But what added the requisite chutzpah to the LSAs is how each section (fashion, film, TV and music) would be a component as well to make the ceremony appealing to the television audience and rewarding excellence.
“Come on, come on/Put your hands into the fire/Explain, explain/As
I turn and meet the power.” – ‘Into the Fire’ by Thirteen Senses
Using music as hypothesis, here is why this year’s music submission process is deeply flawed. As a former music jury member with 10 years of experience, I have seen the nominations process up-close. I have also been privileged enough to have access to rehearsals before the final show and well, the final show(s) as well on a number of occasions.
For one thing, this year we have submissions instead of nominations. This will not elevate LSAs to greater heights but become a showcase of absolute confusion. Over the years, the music categories have seen multiple changes but in a sensible manner. Best Live Act was dispensed with when enough live shows were not taking place. After two years of being a part of music categories, the music producer category was chan-ged. How does a music producer compete with the production value of Coke Studio for which Rohail Hyatt won twice? But the idea to nominate one song from the sessions was soon added to the major categories.
Even with just a handful of music categories, changes were made with a jury of industry experts in place with the hope that the process would remain a transparent one and move according to the times.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to know where I stand/ It’s hard to know where I am/Well, maybe it’s a puzzle I don’t understand/ Sometimes, I get the feeling that I’m/ Stranded in the wrong time.” – ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ by Keane
Now come back to 2023. This pioneering award ceremony has made a drastic change within its music section. Everyone who submits their portfolio could go on to become a nominee (and even win).
What about those who are not submitting their work, either because they believe they have no chance or because they do not know that submissions are open, the latter of which was one major cause of such scant submissions last year. Where does merit stand? I say all these things because apart from submissions, these views have circled around, particularly when an artist, who is not mainstream, wins, in the past. But the effort has always been in the right direction.
The process of submission, which we like to believe is a bid to be more inclusive both in terms of encouraging artists to come forward for recognition, and for their audience to have a say, has its pitfalls.
Some artists have nominated themselves within various categories half a dozen times. Some of the song submissions/nominations (subnations?) were promoted
online, much like the unskippable YouTube ads we love to hate.
Others have not tried to buy digital space to win views and clicks. The former will register with a viewer possibly more than the latter. Common sense.
The idea behind this change is perhaps due to the significant growth in the music department with more and more artists cropping up. It is also a reflection on how we consume music and the changes in the last decade or so.
But this pioneering award ceremony forgot one simple fact: Pakistan doesn’t have the variety of awards (in music alone). From the Grammys to the American Music Awards and a host of others, each ceremony is based on a different criterion.
What the LSAs [submission format] forget is that the music section needed to be a mixture of People’s Choice Awards, the Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards, the American Music Awards, in a bid to create its own identity and not make it a free-for-all process.
At the moment, many mainstream artists have nominated themselves in multiple categories half a dozen times. Why not make it a rule that an artist can nominate themselves just once? We’d be looking at a truly diverse list.
On the other hand, some of the brightest artists have not submitted their portfolios even once maybe because they do not know the process has changed and holds merit.
Over the years, music categories have evolved a number of times, based upon the suggestions of a closed-door jury, with each member connected to the music ecosystem.
However, in 2023, the music categories are the following: Most Streamed Songs Of The Year, Singer Of The Year and Song Of The Year.
Within these three categories, you will notice that some artists are repeating multiple times but a huge chunk of artists are nowhere. What is the next step? Will viewers decide who should win in each category?
If so, what the LSAs (at minimum) needed was to add a fourth category to be called Critics Choice Award because the job of the critic is to keep an eye on high-profile artists as well as those who are flying under the radar but deserve to be acknowledged based on merit and originality.
It is a jury – in the past – that has gone on to decide the shortlist as well as decide on an award by themselves because it would never do well with an audience. The idea is to extrapolate the best of these many international music ceremonies to build our own version.
There was one year where music categories included nods to Best Music Album, Best Music Video Director and Best Live Act because that was a time when releasing a complete body of work in the form of an album was a regular feat.
But you cannot treat music as a category that should be cut or go to minimal to make room for other performing arts categories such as cinema and TV. It has been happening since both artistic features grew. For instance, in 2019, Album of the Year and Best Music Video Director were cut to make room for film music. Huh. A great way to discourage music artists from releasing a full-length album.
The purpose of this article is not to pull down the LSAs but to remind the powers that be that to do this is bringing music down to statistics and algorithms (streaming).
When I saw the ‘submissions’ and asked Bilal Maqsood (off the cuff) why he didn’t submit his solo music material, he confirmed what I already knew. He said that even as Strings, they’ve never submitted music.
In all this, also ponder over one fact: how do these categories do justice and make room for folk artists?
The best of Pakistan’s cultural artists, whose music flows into the love of the land are not as internet savvy. If you make it all about artists submitting their names, folk artists will have no place… at all. It is a jury that recognizes folk artists through listening and watching them including watching them in shows like Lahooti Melo, and even Coke Studio, Rivayat Music Series, or listening to an album like Fanoos or Gulistan Janoobi and just through the genuine interest in their field.
The one solution I can offer is that the team working on the LSAs ensures that someone will notify these artists and help them through the submission process.
Bottom line: If the Lux Style Awards is going to continue with this submission process which allows artists to submit their name in each category - followed by either viewers or artists deciding on the winners, a Critics Choice category is surely needed to decide a longlist and shortlist that are entirely merit-based.
At least that way, viewers will get their say, artists will have their say (although some have gone overboard in nominating themselves), and critics will have their say and folk will have space to shine as well. The end.