Arts and Culture

Will the Grammys ever learn? The Dangers of Compartmentalization at the Annual Award Show

Amaani Rana

The Grammy Awards were held in Los Angeles on Monday, marking their 65th anniversary. The awards historically hold great weight for many people across the globe, who recognise them for their significance within the music industry and beyond.

Yet in more recent years, increased scrutiny has been placed upon these awards and their legitimacy. With only 11 black artists being awarded ‘Album of the Year’, grievances regarding racial inequalities are being vocalised now more than ever. Increasingly, people are acknowledging the discriminatory reality that has contributed to such backlash.

The Weeknd has famously boycotted the Grammys after being snubbed by the award show despite chart topping success. This year, none of his songs from his latest album After Hours were nominated, and he alongside others, has called for transparency from the organisers. 

Whilst the ‘big four’ categories- Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year- are famously denied to BAME artists on many occasions, it is clear that efforts to avoid backlash have resulted in subcategories being a default solution. Placing these musicians in their own categories relays a dangerous message, they simply cannot be placed in competition with their white counterparts.

The rapper Tyler the Creator, has vocalised his struggle with accepting this compartmentalization. In 2020, he expressed his gratitude for the ‘Best Rap Album’ award. However, with his music being so ‘genre-bending’, being automatically placed in rap or urban categories feels like a ‘backhanded compliment’ and another effort to disguise racial undertones within the institution. 

This is the problem. The most disturbing aspect arguably of this prejudice is the dangerous denial that those behind it seem to possess. Their website alone features numerous praises for BAME artists. A special edition for Black History Month as well as many articles on the hit K-pop group BTS are sprawled across the Grammys’ official site, seemingly to convince themselves more than anyone of their inclusivity.  

The success of BTS highlights further examples of such discrimination. Regardless of their success in breaking countless records, the Korean boy group were denied the award for Best Pop Duo for three consecutive years, and did not attend this year’s ceremony where they were also nominated for Best Music Video. While the 2021 Grammys raved about BTS’ approaching performance throughout the show, their award category was announced off air entirely. Being Asian and nominated for a mainstream award was seemingly where the organisers drew the line. And a poorly drawn line at that, created to placate fans rather than tackle the serious inequalities existing at such a famed institution. 

In response to allegations of biased rigging, organisers declared that their use of anonymous voting committees was to be abandoned this year. These committees previously made the final decisions, able to overrule the votes of the body. The unsavoury nature of such judging methods begs the question: how can any credibility be given to them? The industry oligarchs are finally being exposed, and fear that no nominations will save them this time round.


Categories: Arts and Culture, Music

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