The Grammys Have Once Again Snubbed Minority Artists

The announcement of nominees for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards this past week has brought the issue of racial diversity back to the forefront of people’s minds, restarting much-needed conversations about inequality. Black artists have no doubt contributed endlessly to music as a whole, with their culture and sound evident in multiple genres. But despite their influence and impact for years, black talent has been routinely ignored by institutions like the Grammys.

With several black artists this year being snubbed for the chance to win at what is music’s biggest stage, there has been conversation of why we continue to hold the Grammys at such a high standard. The Achievement and Award show, which was founded in 1959 by the Recording Academy to showcase and highlight the achievements of musicians, has been heavily criticized by critics in the past for the lack of diversity in their nominations, and this year sadly was no different.

The greatest surprise came as The Weeknd’s 4th studio album, After Hours, saw no nominations despite its 221 million streams worldwide and 275,000 copies sold. His single “Blinding Lights,” which set the record for most weeks spent on Billboard 100’s Top 10 for 40 weeks straight received no nominations in the Pop Solo Performance Category, with singles like “Yummy” by Justin Bieber nominated instead. Teyana Taylor also voiced her disappointment with this year’s Grammy nominations, as she, alongside many extremely talented female R&B artist peers, saw their work go unnoticed, with the category for R&B Single of the Year having only male artists nominated. This is despite the countless contributions female artists like Summer Walker, Jhene Aiko, HER, Kehlani and Taylor have made over the past year.

At the end of the day, one could say that the reason the Grammys have held such popularity is because of the contributions of black artists, who in many cases have either been given ‘participation’ trophies, are only recognized in one category or ignored altogether. There have been so many instances where one can say the Grammys have exploited black talent, by boosting an artist of colour’s nominations but not granting them any actual awards. This was seen with SZA in 2018, who was nominated in 5 categories and was not awarded one Grammy that night. One can say that the Grammys were able to use SZA’s fan base and supporters, who tuned in that evening, to their advantage, increasing their ratings and viewership, while simultaneously leaving her empty-handed. Another inequality experienced by black artists is the way in which they are subjected to one category, despite their work representing something completely different. This was seen in the case of Tyler the Creator, who won ‘Best Rap Album’ in 2020 and spoke out saying the album was categorized as pop and was disappointed it was viewed as rap. Kendrick Lamar was only recognized in the rap genre, despite opening as the main performer at the Grammys in 2016 with 11 nominations. Another example is Beyonce losing ‘Album of the Year’ in 2017 for her critically acclaimed album Lemonade. There is no question of how black artists have been disenfranchised by the Recording Academy.

The Grammys have long been held as the highest form of achievement for music, however, there are systemic problems, with minorities having to compete twice as hard for their works to be recognized and be held on the same level as their white counterparts. History has shown us time and time again that institutions created by white individuals will always portray biases. There is no doubt in the area of music, black individuals along with other minorities are the movers of culture. It is time we replace the superiority we hold the Grammys to with other organizations and award shows that fully represent and empower our culture.

References:

The Weeknd's fans angered and confused over receiving zero Grammy nominations

2021 Grammys complete nominees

Black artists get the noms but not necessarily the trophies at Grammy awards

From Aretha to Beyonce, the black artists snubbed by the Grammys