The Good-For-Nothing Awards
There are more than 20 different award shows held in the United States for music. That fact shouldn’t be so surprising considering that the United States, given its multi-ethnic population, has made countless influential contributions to music throughout history. The United States has often been called a “melting pot,” a unique mix of people, each with their own cultural flavor. It was here that the savory rhythms of jazz, the silky notes of blues, and the energy of hip hop made their way into the spotlight. Even today, these genres are still adored by millions worldwide. With such fantastic music, it was only natural to celebrate the best collaborations and releases. Thus, we have the Grammy Awards, which will air on Sunday, March 14.
Easily the most prestigious of music awards, the first Grammy ceremony first occurred on May 4, 1959. In this event, there were only 28 different categories of awards given out. That has expanded to more than 80 today. This expansion demonstrates that the award show committee can reform and shift with the times, and if this is the case, they can certainly change again now.
In order to rise up to their own level of prestige, they need to address their issues with diversity. If not, the award cheapens the value of music from artists of diverse backgrounds.
It isn’t hard to find proof that the Grammys prestigious reputation has been spoiled by a poorly run committee. Nearly 20 million viewers tune into the Grammy award show annually, and the majority of them are oblivious to a shady pattern seen in the nominees and winners of the awards. It’s important to note how the decision-making process works.
The selection of award winners is not determined by fans or the general population of listeners, nor is it based on which works did best with the number of sales and streams. Instead, the group of nominees is given to members of the Recording Academy. The Recording Academy consists of a coalition of undisclosed singers, engineers, producers, songwriters, and more. They are the ones who decide which nominee should win the award. The problem with this system is clear. There could be palpable favoritism or other unfair bias hidden in the undisclosed committee. This is exactly why there have been plenty of masterpieces that never got their time in the limelight, which they deserved. The water muddies even further when you notice a pattern of black artists being cold-shouldered by the Grammys.
Black musicians, writers, and producers have been catalysts in the creation of the music industry as it is today. So it is rather bizarre to see that in all 61 years of the award show being around, only 10 of the music artists to win “Album of the Year” were black. The first black artist to win “Album of the Year” was Outkast in 2004. Given the fact that the black community has blessed music with so many improvements and legends, it’s disgraceful to see only one black artist win this award in the 45 years since the beginning of the Grammys. Significant black artists like Nicki Minaj, SZA, Notorious B.I.G, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac were all nominated but never won. On top of that, rapper Eminem has won every single time he was nominated for the rap album of the year. He beat out rap legends like Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, and Common, none of which have ever been the winners of the rap album of the year award.
A more specific example of an affront to black music creators took place in the 56th Grammy Award Show. Macklemore won Rap Album of the Year for his album “Heist.”’. The other nominees were Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.a.a.d city,” Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same,” and Kanye’s “Yeezus” album, all of which did remarkably better than Macklemore’s album on the charts. “Heist” was on the charts for a single week, “Yeezus” for four, “Nothing was the Same” for 79, and Kendrick’s astounding “good kid, m.a.a.d city” for 80. Eighty weeks straight. What compelled the Recording Academy to choose Macklemore’s album over those three is one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Another example is Tyler the Creator’s “Igor” album. Tyler the Creator’s first Grammy win was in 2020 for this album. He won Rap Album of the Year, which on paper seems like a great accomplishment. However, when you listen to the album, it is clear that this album is not rap. Many of his fans were utterly confused by the choice of this category for “Igor.” The artist himself made it undeniably obvious that his album was not a rap album, yet somehow the members of the Recording Academy didn’t catch on to this.
A strangely similar situation happened to Drake in 2015, during the 57th annual Grammys. Drake’s major success “Hotline Bling” took home the Rap Song of the Year title, despite undoubtedly not being a rap song. Drake later came out and admitted his frustration with his song being placed in that category. Drake questioned if that was the only category they (Recording Academy) could place him in because he has “rapped in the past” or just because he was black.
And most recently, the Weeknd’s hit album “After Hours” wasn’t even nominated although having one of the biggest openings of the year. His songs were everywhere for the past year, blasting on radios and other devices across the country. Fans took to Twitter trending #cancelthegrammys in response to him being “robbed” by the Recording Academy. Artists Drake and Nicki Minaj likewise demanded “something new” as the Grammys can’t be trusted as the gold-star standard for masterpieces in music.
The Grammys have disrespected the black community so much so that many influential artists, like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, no longer bother showing up. These countless incidents of illogical categorizations and poor music selection demonstrate the incompetence of the Recording Academy. If there is a question of racism in the process, then the awards need a complete makeover to create standards of quality and equity.
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