The Grammys aired this last weekend with Trevor Noah as the host and performances from Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Cardi B and many more. It was a celebration of music in the past year where Beyoncé became the artist to receive the most Grammys and Taylor Swift received five out of the six awards she was nominated for. The mega award show also addressed the deep impact the pandemic had on music with a “in memoriam” segment, while highlighting independent venues in the industry.
But that isn’t the story here. The Grammys is known in a lot of communities to have a bias against women and Black artists – and musician, The Weeknd, said enough is enough and has boycotted the award show for the foreseeable future.
The Weeknd, coming off his Super Bowl performance last month and having broken chart records for “Blinding Lights,” received no Grammy nominations. He was good enough for the Super Bowl — which by the way, has undergone a lot of discriminatory scrutiny but is on the rise — but not good enough for the Grammys? It begs the question: how does the Grammys decide on their nominations?
An anonymous group of experts review thousands of albums and songs to decide on the initial nomination choices. This team is kept anonymous to protect them for lobbying and fan attacks. After they shortlist artists by voters, they can add any additional names that they want. Which leaves room for error and skeptical motivations for a specific artist. They are the ones that have the final say in who makes the cut. They are meant to be totally non-bias and cast their votes in fairness. The Weeknd deemed the entire process unacceptable. “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammy,” the Canadian pop star told The New York Times.
And he is not alone. Drake, Frank Ocean, Kanye West (his 2009 diss to Taylor Swift ring a bell?) and a host of other Black artists, rebuke the Grammys and see them as an exclusive entity of the music industry. In fact, the last Black artist to win Album of the Year was Herbie Hancock in 2008, with Lauryn Hill in 1991 as the last Black woman to win. Although Beyoncé has received the most Grammys, she has never gotten Album of the Year. This is problematic. The institution needs to diversify and do a way better job at recognizing women and people of color, and that starts with their flawed nomination review committee.
Hearing the cries of the industry, the Grammys hired a diversity officer and thousands of new members (including females) to their leadership team. However, earlier this year they dropped the “urban” category, stating it is in fact racist, which was a step in the right direction. But then months later they turned around and asked Tiffany Haddish to host for free. It’s hard to understand how serious they are about systematic change and making the music world more inclusive and equitable.
Photo via Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images