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Are the Grammys legitimate?

| Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Emma Kirner | The Observer

One of the most anticipated events of the award show season is the Grammys, which nominates and awards musical and spoken-word artists for their outstanding achievements in the previous year. Or, so they say. 

For an artist, it is, no doubt, an honor to even be nominated for a Grammy. Many of my favorite artists in past years have been nominated, and even sometimes awarded, for their achievements in the music industry. However, the legitimacy of the Grammy Awards and the Recording Academy that controls it has been questioned for a very long time, and it is something that should be addressed more frequently in the ever-changing and evolving musicscape that we have in the United States. 

One of the most prominent faults of the Grammys is the lack of musical representation. It is undeniable that the distribution and depth of categories is extremely faulty. Several areas have extensive awards and nominated artists, while others have a single award to provide to a select few artists. 

Even still, many artists make music that extends beyond just a single genre and yet get categorized in places where they become lost under the weight of bigger artists or their work might be undervalued for the artistry that it truly is. This is often true for artists of color, as the Grammys are often known for snubbing and misrepresenting Black artists in nominations, placements and overall award-winning. 

Since the beginning of the Grammy Awards in 1957, only ten Black artists have won Album of the Year, and, in many years, artists like Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Michael Jackson and Prince have failed to win or even be nominated for works hailed as masterpieces in popular culture. 

Furthermore, the Recording Academy has had many accusations for failing to nominate talented female artists. In 2018, former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told Variety that female artists need to “step up” in order to start being more included in the Grammys. While more women have been nominated and have won awards for Grammy categories, there was no instance of “stepping up” done, a comment that has been notably dismissed by Dua Lipa at the 2019 Grammy Awards. 

Not only do the Grammy Awards feature an exterior of controversy regarding the quality of nominated songs and albums (no offense to Daniel Caesar or Giveon, but how was “Peaches” nominated for Record of the Year?), the categorization of work and the ever-present image of white male winners, but there has also been internal controversy in the Recording Academy

Former president and CEO Deborah Dugan noted voting irregularities, the harassment and silence of other women in power and the notable prevalence of a “boys’ club”-like attitude. The Academy had tried to hide accusations of sexual assault, used copious amounts of money to quiet those speaking out against their proceedings and even fired Dugan after accusing her of being “abusive and bullying.”

For all of this and more, many artists have boycotted the Grammys by refusing to attend and even refusing to submit their work for consideration. A notable protest was made by The Weeknd in response to receiving no nominations for his album “After Hours.” Many artists, despite recent rule changes in voting policies, still call for more transparent voting processes so that wins can be truly congratulated and celebrated. 

Awards season can be a fun time for everyone involved — viewers and potential award-winners alike. However, there is a history of corruption, bigotry and secrecy that has eroded the legitimacy of many popular shows in the United States. 

The Recording Academy has to do better; even with all of the underlying problems seeping through the structures of this awards ceremony, one of the most fundamental of them all is the actual quality of the music represented and nominated. 

Many talented artists get nominated every year, but many also fail to receive any recognition. I could write pages on my opinions of who is given the right to be nominated, but I think it’s important to note that it should all come back to the celebration of music. This is what the awards should be about, but it’s what they so rarely beget. The Grammys wouldn’t be important without the artists that make it, but the Recording Academy has forgotten what should really matter to them.

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About Anna Falk

Anna is a sophomore studying neuroscience, French, and linguistics. You should follow her Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/annam.falk?si=88e09848b64547c3

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