Talent, impact overlooked; Grammy’s 2021 edition

Alice Cutter and Lila Portis

On Sunday, Mar. 14, the Grammy Awards returned for its 63rd anniversary. Hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, the 2021 Grammy Awards boasted performances from Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Meghan Thee Stallion and more. The evening proved momentous and exciting for many reasons: Beyoncé officially became the most awarded woman in the show’s history and BTS became the first Korean group to be nominated. However, one notable discrepancy throughout the awards is that race and diversity, or the lack thereof, have influenced the event’s current and past victors in drastic ways. 

Freshman Kaia Cmarko says of the diversity this year, “I think it was mediocre.  Other people should have won.”

A Homogenous History of the Grammys 

Every year since 1958, The Grammys have been hosted by the Recording Academy, which receives thousands of entries.  There, a group of musical experts chooses the list of nominations for each category.  Afterward, the nominations are reviewed to make sure that they are qualified and were also considered under factors such as cultural/societal impact.  More recently, the actual “voting members” have been criticized for lack of diversity, leading the Recording Academy to recruit 900 more members.  

In its 63 years of existence, the Grammy Awards have only had 10 Black artists win Album of the Year. Recent backlash towards the Grammys because of their lack of representation includes 2013 when Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange lost to Mumford and Sons’ Babel. Fans were confused, angered and disillusioned by the nomination process. Huffington Post author explains, “[Mumford and Sons] folk-rock… just doesn’t feel all that vital compared to, say, Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange.” Other notable moments include Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Prince’s 1999 failing to be nominated, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly losing Album of the Year and Best Hip Hop Album in 2014.

In 2016, Beyonce lost album of the year for Lemonade to Adele’s 25; however, she won in other categories. It seems when non-white creators do win awards, often they win under “racialized” categories, while as pointed out by Tyler the creator, “It sucks that whenever we, I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a rap or Urban category… why can’t we just be in pop?” In fact, according to the L.A. Times, 18 out of 22 of Beyonce’s awards come from “urban” music categories like rap, R&B, etc. 


The 2021 Grammys

Because of Beyonce’s snub, it’s no surprise that this year, she declined the offer to perform at the Grammys.  She was not the only artist who deferred.  The Weeknd decided that he would completely boycott the Grammys, as his song “Blinding Lights” was not nominated at all even though it was top of the charts in 2020.  Another reason for the boycotts was to push back against the secret Grammy committees, which Zayn Malik also tweeted about being firmly against on March 14: “We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating “creative excellence” of ALL.  End the secret committees. Until then… #f***thegrammys.”

Former Grammy CEO Deborah Dugan claimed: “Review committees often engage in corrupt practices that include booting names on the list for their own favorite songs and artists… [they] chose artists with whom they have personal or business relationships.” 

“It makes sense for them (artists) to abstain from the system,” freshman Giles Gilbert Bartell acknowledges. “Maybe it’ll make some good changes.”

 To diversify the process, the Recording Academy has added 900 new members to the list of ‘voters’; however, there is still progress to be made.

I still feel like there were obvious snubs that should have gone to a person of color,” sophomore Natalie Svolos commented after watching the Grammys this year.  

One distinct moment was when Billie Eilish won Record of the Year but stated in her acceptance speech that Meghan Thee Stallion should have won instead.  

Many fans of BTS felt frustrated when Dynamite lost to the objectively less impactful Rain on Me by Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.  

“I think talent, impact, all that stuff got overlooked.  BTS has consistently put out record-breaking music, insane performances… all while being a foreign artist,” says sophomore Lucie Starr Escobar.

BTS, also known as The Bangtan Boys or Bangtan Sonyeondan, is a South Korean seven-member boy band created in 2010.  In 2020, Dynamite, the group’s first full English song, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as receiving platinum and double platinum status in the US. 

Latinx artists are included in the group of minorities underrepresented in the Grammys.  It was only this year that a Latin music award was televised. Although many Grammys are given, many are not shown on live TV.  Bad Bunny received his first Grammy for “best Latin pop/urban album.”

“The Grammys need to work on its relationship with the Latinx community. I also think that the recording academy relies too much on the Latin recording academy to represent the Latinx community. The recording academy needs to stop neglecting artists who sing in English and Spanish and should start recognizing more Latinx artists,” sophomore Edward Medina says. 

Starr Escobar notes, “International artists get different treatment…and the talent that these artists have is overlooked. That sucks.”  

For an award show like the Grammys, which is viewed by millions of Americans from all different cultural and racial backgrounds, the artists awarded must be representative of those identities.  

“There’s absolutely room for improvement,” Bartell states.