Grammys 2021: Criticisms


Vitto Ginevri and Ava Parkinson

This year, the 63rd Grammys took place on the 15th of March 2021 in Los Angeles. The ceremony was held online, with hundreds of artists joining from all over the world to celebrate each other’s achievements and wins. However, the ceremony has been a talking point of many people regarding its execution, comments surging about the academy’s xenophobic nature demonstrated in this year’s Grammys. The academy proclaims to be inclusive, however, year after year they continue to snub non-white artists of their awards and nominations. This year, the biggest snubs, according to the general public, are thought to be The Weeknd, Zayn Malik, BTS and Chloe and Halle. The Grammys have also received backlash for their organisation of the pre-show and main show, and for exploiting artists with large fanbases to promote the ceremony.

One of the main criticisms towards the Grammys has been thire apparent exploitation of non-white artists as a platform to the ceremony. An example of this is the Korean boyband BTS, who had been nominated for the category Best Pop Duo/Group, attracting their large fanbase to watch the Grammys as a result. The academy used BTS as one of their main promotional artists, tweeting on their official account comments relating to BTS performance and nomination, obviously targeting fans who were excited seeing the band have their deserved spot in the ceremony of the Grammys after their successful hit ‘Dynamite’. It was pointed out by many that promotion to this level has been done for the band alone, and not for other artists such as Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande. This brings out the question, “why else could the academy have done this for other than for gaining viewers?” The last word was had by ARMYs, however, as the Grammys saw their live viewer count drop from 1.2m to 400k after BTS’ category was announced.

The official website of the Grammys presents the academy as working “year round to build a more diverse and inspiring world for music creators”, claiming that they are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as their core values. This, however, isn’t backed up by their actions as this and past years’ Grammy ceremonies have demonstrated. The process of voting is one that has left many people wondering whether the nominations and wins are given fairly or not. This might seem straightforward, with artist submitting their works, a first round of voting, review of nominations, and final voting, however, there is something in the process that isn’t publicly advertised called the “secret committee”. The identity of those in this committee remain confidential, and they are tasked with whittling down the initial list of nominees, choosing solely based “on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible recordings.” This is where many believe that corruption plays a role- despite the trust shared with the committee members to judge based only on technical competence, there is a lot of space left for them to be influenced by their own biases to or against certain artists. In fact, the academy’s former CEO, Deborah Dugan, wrote that, “Members of the board [of trustees] and the secret committees chose artists with whom they have personal or business relationships,” Dugan wrote. “It is not unusual for artists who have relationships with Board members and who ranked at the bottom of the initial 20-artist list to end up receiving nominations.”

Natalia, in Grade 11, says that “[she] think[s] the Grammys need to rethink the way they judge music, instead based on statistics, and being truly inclusive and transparent, which does not involve bribery or favouritism.”

Acclaimed artists Zayn Malik and The Weeknd have been receiving great support for being totally snubbed by the music academy in charge of selecting the nominees. Malik is still yet to be even nominated for a Grammy award, either as a solo artist or alongside One Direction. He has expressed his disappointment with the lack of inclusivity in the nominating process, which is completely contrary to what the Grammys preach on their official website. Malik stated in one tweet “Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations” which he follows up with an explanation that his previous tweet was not solely to do with the fact that he was not nominated, but to do with “the need for inclusion and the lack of transparency of the nomination process and the space that creates and allows favouritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process”. The Weeknd has also made his disappointment clear by stating “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”. The Weeknd then made a powerful statement, saying “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys”

Many people were surprised by Malik’s and the Weeknd’s lack of well deserved nominations, including Elton John, who explained in an Instagram post, “In my humble opinion, Blinding lights [is] song of the year, record of the year” along with “#GrammySnub”. The Grammys have an extremely poor record for recognising artists of colour in nominations. However, Harver Mason Jr, the academy’s interim chief executive, stated “I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees”.

A lot of people believe that it is not a coincidence that the nominee categories that represent and platform artists who are a part of racial minorities were pushed back to be shown in the pre-show rather than the main show. These categories include : Best gospel performance/song, best reggae album, best latin jazz album, best r&b album, best pop duo/group performance and best rap album. Most of these categories have previously been shown in the main show. While the Grammys academy preaches inclusivity, diversity and recognition, none of these virtues show in their actions. In fact, their actions show the exact opposite. It was made painfully clear that they used and exploited these BIPOC artists for their fanbases and the massive viewership they brought to the show, which only radiates disrespect.

Though all of the mentioned factors all point to this year’s Grammys award ceremony being extremely harmful to artists of colour, there were a few positives that came out of it too. The fact that the Grammys were streamed on YouTube this year was a huge hit for viewers who were eager to watch the Grammys but potentially couldn’t in previous years due to lack of access to cable television. Streaming award shows brings multiple benefits to both the viewers and the Grammys themselves, as it increases accessibility and it allows people to make and observe live comments. Furthermore, receiving a Grammy award, let alone a nomination, is a tremendous achievement for any artist and the multiple controversies surrounding the Grammys ceremony should not, in any way whatsoever, undermine the great accomplishment of this years’ nominees and (especially) winners.