On 14 March 2021, The 63rd Grammy Awards came and went seemingly unnoticed (or uncared for). This may simply be because of the fact that the majority of the world is over ‘virtually attending’ events, but it may also be because of other reasons that run a little deeper. I hear boycott in the wind, don’t you?
One artist in particular, Canadian singer and songwriter The Weeknd who reasonably, thanks to his extremely successful ‘Blinding Lights’ track and his acclaimed album After Hours, should have been in attendance yesterday was not there. Back in November 2020, after the Recording Academy released its list of 2021 Grammy nominations, it appeared that The Weeknd fell short of any nomination, although After Hours had broken numerous records and ‘Blinding Lights’ stayed in the Billboard charts’ top 10 list for the entire year—which is in itself a historical feat that no other artist has accomplished before.
Understandably, he expected a little appreciation, but having not made the cut the singer took to Twitter and shared the inflammatory and infamous tweet that stated: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”
Over the years, the music industry has accused the Grammys of having clear biases against women and black artists, an issue that seems to stem from the “anonymous expert committees” which are responsible for reviewing and counting the Recording Academy’s initial nomination choices as well as determining who gets a nomination out of them.
Harvey Mason Jr, Recording Academy Chair and Interim CEO, responded to The Weeknd’s reaction by stating “We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathise with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration” and his excuse continued by saying that “Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”
In January of 2021, The Weeknd explained his feelings to Billboard regarding the whole situation, and considered the role that race played in the decision by saying that “If you were like ‘Do you think the Grammys are racist?’ I think the only real answer is that in the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 black artists have won ‘Album of the Year’,” he told the outlet. “I don’t want to make this about me. That’s just a fact.”
In a statement to The New York Times, he said that he will no longer submit music to the Grammys “Because of the secret committees.” In the past, artists like Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West have criticised the Grammys for their, to be frank, shady practices. Now, more voices are speaking out and standing up against the not-so-inclusive and seemingly corrupt event.
English singer and songwriter Zayn Malik planted his thoughts on Twitter as well and publicly demanded an end to ‘secret committees’ and a ‘fight for transparency and inclusion’.
Nicki Minaj joined in by tweeting “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on Billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver. #PinkFriday.” Justin Beiber made his case clear as well, among many other artists.
In reality, these public rebukes of the Grammys are a threat to it as an institution, because recognising people of colour has still not happened enough. The last black artist to take Album of the Year home was Herbie Hancock in 2008 for a tribute to Joni Mitchell, and the last black woman was Lauryn Hill in 1999, and it’s not just within the music industry but the entertainment industry as a whole. Maybe now, finally, by stomping on the breaks, things will change, but it takes every single one of us to decide and push for a more inclusive and equitable outcome as well.