The Grammys: It’s Time for Serious Change (1/21/2021)

Throughout history, award shows have been the source of entertainment and celebration of the arts, talent, and creators behind our favorite music, television series’ and films. However, with that excitement comes the stark reality that not all shows, movies, and performers are given the opportunity to be highlighted, featured, or considered. Year after year, the conversation of diversity, inclusion, and fairness often trail behind nominee announcements for both the music and film industries. Now, I am a proponent of equal opportunities, diversity, and cultural appreciation and expression in all art genres.

But, I am exhausted of this being just a conversation. Many celebrities, artists, and content creators have expressed outrage over the lack of diversity, whether ethnic or gender, classified with the Grammys. Most of these awards show scramble to make last-minute adjustments and additions to the program to appease the audience and its patrons. There have been boycotts of the shows, but in the grand scheme of things, we live in a world that is continuously in a state of being “on-air.” Social media is the widely disguised reporter that captures all of what the world has to offer regardless of if it is meant to be seen or not.

With this in mind, let’s discuss the Grammys. The Grammy Awards have been a staple part of the music and film industry for over 61 years. The first Grammy Awards ceremony was held on May 4, 1959. For more than 61 years, we have witnessed greats from Frank Sinatra to Beyonce’ receive what is considered music’s highest achievement. Yet, despite some historic wins, each year, as of late, the Grammy Award nominations have fallen over the edge of tone-deafness and cultural recognition. Countless articles and social media posts often follow the award show’s nominees’ announcements, and this year the cycle continued. Since we are still dealing with a worldwide pandemic, the 63rd Grammy Award show will air on CBS on March 14. The original air date for the program was scheduled for January 31.

Since the nominees’ announcement in the expansive 84 categories back in November, outrage, protest, and disappointment clouded the show’s allure. Several artists, articles, and publications have reported that artists are either boycotting by not attending or rejecting their Grammy nomination altogether because of lack of diversity within the categories.

As of January 7, 2021, Rolling Stone published an article The Crisis Behind the All White Grammy Category, which discusses that a category in the Grammy Nomination lineup only nominated white artists. Before Rolling Stone, AV Club posted an article on January 5, 2021, highlighting that 3 out of 5 Grammy hopefuls reject nominations over categories lacking inclusion. What happens when artists and or performers decide that they don’t want to accept their award? Essentially, nothing. According to the Rolling Stone piece, the other remaining nominees within the category that have not objected to the nomination will have the opportunity to win. (Hissong, January 7, 2021)

This, in my opinion, is simply unacceptable. Now, I don’t want it to come off as if the other nominees do not deserve being in the category or even winning. However, it implies that despite the omission of artists, the awards organization and ceremony would rather tolerate no-shows instead of considering additional contenders representing diversity.

This continues to stoke the flames of issues that lie within a system that already seems partial to specific artists. From the outside looking in, it appears that if the artist is famous on a worldwide scale, they are recognized. However, suppose the artists are more indie or regionally respected. In that case, they may not receive recognition despite having a fantastic body of work.

One of the next things that I feel needs addressing is the nomination disparities that have long been a visible problem with almost all award shows. For example, for the sake of not singling out a specific person, let’s consider this analogy hypothetically. Say an artist throughout their career is nominated 98 times. If they have been selected that many times, they are considered extremely talented across the board. However, despite being nominated 98 times, they have only won 5 awards. Mathematically, the win percentage of this would be 5.10 percent. On anyone’s grading scale, this is a failing score.

In contrast, an artist has been nominated 20 times. They are not established as long as the other artist, but they are equally considered talented. This artist, however, has won 14 out of the 20 times. Mathematically, their win percentage is 70 percentage, a much better grade, if you will. Despite the traditional talk of its an honor to be nominated, I believe it is also essential to recognize the artist, composer, or whatever with actually winning sometimes. No one wants to be almost at the prize all the time. They want to win the award as well.

So, now that some of the issues have been mentioned, the next measure is implementing a plan. For the past few weeks, I have been monitoring changes announced with the Grammys, and I can at least say that something is beginning to register. However, they have a long way to go, and that’s fine. This is not an overnight fix for the industry. But the key is it needs to be known that process is beginning and will be considered for the years to come.

References

Hissong, Samantha. “The Crisis Behind the All-White Grammy Category,” January 8, 2021. https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/grammys-2021-childrens-music-controversy-1109502/.

Miller, Shannon. “3 Out of 5 Grammy Nominees Reject Nomination over Category’s Lack of Inclusion.” Music. Music, January 5, 2021. https://music.avclub.com/3-out-of-5-grammy-nominees-reject-nomination-over-categ-1845994001.