Do Major Awards Mean Anything Anymore?

The 2021 Grammy nominations were announced on Nov. 24. Needless to say, as hard as they tried not to disappoint, they ultimately did. 

Here I am, writing another article about race, built into every facet of every system, even those that distinguish between those who are worthy of recognition and those who aren’t worth a golden Grammy. 

Last year, Tyler the Creator called out the Grammy’s use of the word “Urban” in the category title “Best Urban Contemporary Album. He said it was just a “politically correct way to say the n-word.” And he was right. 

Amongst changes that have been demanded so long, the Grammys changed the category title this year to “Best Progressive R&B Album.” Additionally, before the nominations were even revealed, the Grammys made it a point to state that they are intent on making change, in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement. But that didn’t showcase itself amongst the nominations.

The Weekend was snubbed, and instead, Justin Bieber was nominated for the hit single “Yummy” and his album Changes, which didn’t receive the same commercial or critical success as The Weekend’s After Hours

Many people felt Japanese-British singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama was also snubbed. Additionally, many Black women like Summer Walker and Normani have contributed to R&B this year, who many believed were snubbed. 

Maybe you’re tired of reading these articles from me. But this seems like something that I really have to say and I’m sure everyone, especially people of color, have thought of these questions at some point. 

How do you determine the worth of art? Why do white people get recognized for their talent so easily, while BIPOC, especially Black people, have to work 50 times as hard to get an ounce of recognition? For these award shows, it seems that the worth is determined by race and the definitions we attach to the role of race contributing to music, art and culture. Black musicians especially have made an endless number of contributions to the music world. So, does the stamp of approval from the white man mean anything? 

I remember seeing Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award wins this year. It felt really good to see an Asian filmmaker getrecognized because BIPOC who do produce stellar work rarely get recognized. So, to a degree, it matters to me. But should it? 

After demanding these merit-based institutions to recognize and listen to BIPOC truly, it feels like there isn’t any point to the institutions themselves. The kind of joy you see whenever you see an artist telling your story winning an award for their expression is one that is precious; when you see people telling your story on that stage, it’s a feeling we all wish for and when we get it, we hold onto it for as long as we can. But we try to hold onto it because it's rare. It’s a phenomenon. Even more so, as a person of color myself, it seems like I’m begging for that feeling. But why beg from someone who only gives you morsels to keep you occupied? I’m starting to think that none of these awards shows matter. Maybe? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. 

From time to time, I’ll still pretend like I’ve won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay with my shampoo bottle in the shower. And then, I’ll love and hate how much I hope to see someone like me up on that stage one day. 

For now, my thoughts on these awards consist of a simple dichotomy. They won’t matter to me unless I feel like those who have been worthy of being recognized are getting the acknowledgment and gratitude that they rightfully deserve. It’s an act of simultaneously valuing the just opinions that I think and know matter while discounting and refusing to acknowledge these institutions' unfair decisions. And there are a lot more unfair decisions than fair ones, as these major award shows prove.