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Let’s Break Down Harry’s Controversial Comment In His Grammys Speech

Well, it’s post-Grammys day, which means it’s time to debrief all the wins, snubs, reactions, broken records, and just chaos from the night. The 65th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5 were filled with iconic moments, from Beyoncé making history with the most wins of all time to Lizzo killing her performance. Besides the talk around the amazing performances and celeb interactions, the announcements of the winners, of course, were also followed with plenty of discourse from social media. The biggest and most highly-anticipated award of the night is Album of the Year, which often has devoted fans causing debates over it. 

After three and a half hours of gramophones being rewarded, it was time to reveal who would be walking away with the highest honor. Drumroll, please: Harry Styles walked away with Album of the Year for Harry’s House. And TBH, a lot of people aren’t happy. 

Grammy watchers were anticipating the prestigious award to go to Beyonce for her album Renaissance, so when Styles won, both fans and Styles himself were shocked. Following the reveal, Styles went on stage to accept his reward. The win by itself caused some strong opinions, but the speech that followed ignited an uproar on social media for comments made by Styles. If you missed the speech, I’m here to explain the controversy. 

At the beginning of his speech, Styles said, “I think on nights like tonight, it’s important for us to remember there is no such thing as ‘best’ in music. I don’t think any of us sit in the studio making decisions on what is going to get us one of these.” This comment was met with nods and applause from artists around the room. However, the comments that followed are what sparked some conversation on social media. 

To close out the speech, Styles said, “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often and this is so, so nice. Thank you very much.” The phrase “people like me” is what has caused anger among social media users. With him being a highly successful, awarded white male artist, some users were confused about what he meant by this phrase. Artists of color were nominated, some for the first time, as well as women in the category, so Styles’ win and his speech are bringing forth conversations about white privilege. Her Campus reached out to Styles’ team for further clarification on what he meant by the comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

One Twitter user wrote, “‘This doesn’t happen to people like me’ is the most white privilege-iest thing to ever be uttered at an awards show ever for all time.” Another wrote, “Did harry styles just say ‘this doesn’t happen to people like me very often’ when winning album of the year.. like you’re a straight cis white guy lol.” 

Styles won an award earlier in the night for Best Pop Vocal Album, and this isn’t his first time winning major awards. Given his successful history, some felt his “people like me” comment downplayed nominees’ experiences that have to fight to just be present at an award show. One Twitter user wrote, “Harry Styles saying people like him don’t win very often. Meanwhile, there are watch parties in Puerto Rico rooting for Benito to win the first-ever Puerto Rican Album of the Year at the Grammys. El chiste se cuenta solo [the joke tells itself].” 

The “people like me” comment is pushing forward conversation about the already existing problem within the Grammys. Historically, the majority of AOTY winners have been white artists. In the past 65 years, only 11 Black artists have won the coveted award.

The Grammys this year were filled with nominees from the Black community, LGBTQ+ community, Latinx community, AAPI community, and more. With an award show filled with diverse nominees, fans were hoping the highest award would go to a person of color, especially with the award show taking place during Black History Month. The Album of the Year category had nominations for Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Lizzo, and Kendrick Lamar. When it was revealed Styles won and beat out these nominations, some fans were disappointed. One Twitter user said, “Not beyoncé and Kendrick losing album of the year to harry styles during black history month???” 

The anger toward Styles’ win also just stems from fans wanting to see their favorites take home the award. Adele was also on the list of nominees for AOTY, and her fanbase was rooting for her till the end, as were the fanbases for Bad Bunny, Lamar, and Beyonce rooting for their artists. Many feel that they were snubbed. One fan came to Twitter to say, “Harry Styles’ album wasn’t bad but winning album of the year over Beyoncé, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, and Bad Bunny is ridiculous to me lmao. Grammys really manage to do this every year.” 

Amid the controversy, Styles’ fans came to his side to back up his speech and win. TikToker @urcoolmomfriend explained that Styles’ comment was in regard to his childhood. She wrote, “Do I think it was the wisest thing to say? No… but in his defense, he usually has a little more context when he says this.” She goes on to say that he grew up with a single mom in a small town, and then took a random chance on X-Factor, which happened to work out in his favor. She doesn’t think he was saying that the Grammys don’t go to “rich, white men.” Instead, she believes he’s saying that many people have dreams like him, but “don’t get the opportunities he did.” 

Styles may not have meant to disregard the experiences of marginalized communities within the industry, but his speech and win are a great example of how work still needs to be done to have more diverse winners in the music field. 

Hannah Tolley is a contributing writer under the Entertainment and Culture vertical. She covers entertainment releases, fan theories, pop culture news, and more. Aside from Her Campus, Hannah was also a member of the Florida State University (FSU) Her Campus team. During her time with the chapter, she served as a staff writer for three semesters, where she wrote biweekly pieces across campus, culture, and personal verticals. She also was a content editor for two semesters, where she led a team of 6+ writers and oversaw and edited their articles. Hannah was also an editorial intern for Her Campus during her spring and summer term of her second year in college. As an intern, she worked alongside the full-time edit team to curate timely and evergreen pieces across life, culture, career, and style verticals. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from FSU in May 2023, with a Bachelor of Science in Media/Communication Studies with a minor in English. When she's not dissecting the latest pop culture events, you can find her reading a cheesy romance novel or establishing parasocial relationships with fictional TV characters. She loves to rewatch her favorite shows (Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Friends) or spend the day going down a rabbit hole of reality dating shows.