The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards just passed, and with it came a lot of mixed feelings. When nominations for the Grammys came out, The Weeknd’s work was noticeably absent from all categories. The artist spoke openly about the snub. He took to Twitter and interviews to insinuate that the Grammys are biased in many ways. To judge for ourselves, let’s take a look at some of the biggest controversies that the Recording Academy has had in recent years.
Members of the Recording Academy both nominate and vote on winners of the show. Last year, former head of the Recording Academy Deborah Dugan was fired from her position. The day after her termination, Dugan came out with allegations against the Academy. She alleged that nominations have been manipulated to convince certain artists to perform at the Grammys. Other artists agree with Dugan’s claims that nominations and wins depend on industry relationships. Zayn Malik recently tweeted that, “Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations.”
The 59th Annual Grammy Awards had a packed nominee list. Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Adele’s 25 were both nominated for Album of the Year, with 25 coming out on top. As Adele gave her speech onstage, she made it clear that Lemonade “was so monumental and so well-thought-out and so beautiful and soul-baring.” Adele explicitly rejected the win, doing what the Academy failed to do to recognize Beyoncé’s work.
Mac Miller was nominated for his first Grammy posthumously. His parents were invited to attend on his behalf, agreeing to accept Miller’s award for Best Rap Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards if he won. Cardi B then received the award instead. The loss caused many, including Miller’s ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, to criticize the Grammys for disrespecting the late artist and his parents by flying them out only to watch their son lose.
The Weeknd made a mark with his latest album After Hours, yet was not given a single Grammy nomination for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. He called out possible racial discrimination, noting that “in the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won Album of the Year [as of 2020] … That’s just a fact.” The artist is now officially boycotting all future Grammy Awards. Amid these allegations came the first nomination of K-pop group BTS. The group debuted in 2013, yet is only just now receiving Grammy recognition. The move appears to tokenize the band in an effort to offset conversations about racism, with Forbes magazine calling out the Grammys for doing “The Bare Minimum” for the band.
Tyler, The Creator took home the Grammy for Best Rap Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. While gracious in his acceptance speech, he criticized the categorization of his music as a “backhanded compliment.” Tyler, The Creator’s work crosses genres, and he took backstage to air out his grievances that the “urban” label was just another way of pigeonholing Black artists into one genre of music.
Two of the “Big Four” awards were won by Black artists this year. Mother-daughter duo Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter both set records as well. These wins set a precedent for giving artists of color the recognition they deserve. The wins are incredible, but they cannot overshadow the voices of other artists of color who still raise an issue with the Academy. As the history of the Grammys is explored, it is important to remain critical, because it is clear that much more goes on behind the scenes than meets the eye.