Racism in the Grammys

Over the past few months, major artists such as Zayn Malik, The Weeknd, and Tyler, the Creator have called out the Grammys for it’s discriminatory nomination system. The Weeknd has gone as far as to withdraw his nominations from now on. The Weeknd told The New York Times, “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys”. 

The nomination system of the Grammys consists of 10,000 musicians, producers, engineers, songwriters, and other professionals in the music industry. There is a yearly fee to be a part of this committee, as well as a requirement to vote on a certain number of categories. This system is controversial because this massively diverse group of musical professionals can vote and nominate music in categories that are outside of their expertise and knowledge, and many members may vote for artists that are well known, even if they have never heard their music. Zayn Malik addressed his resentment towards the Grammys by tweeting, “F*** the grammys and everyone associated. Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations. Next year I’ll send you a basket of confectionery”. When fans began questioning the intent of this tweet, Zayn responded again by saying, “My tweet was not personal or about eligibility but was about 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”. This accusation aligns with the history of pathetic nominations of major black artists. Since the first Grammys in 1959, only 10 black artists have won Album of the Year. From 2007-2017, 17 non-white artists were nominated for Album of the Year, with only one winner.

Additionally, the Grammys have been controversial because many black artists are placed in “urban” categories such as Rap or R&B, and are withheld from nominations in major categories such as Song of the Year or Album of the Year. Tyler, the Creator told the press room at the 2020 Grammys, “I’m very grateful that what I made could just be acknowledged in a world like this, but also it sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending, or anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that urban word, it’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me. When I hear that, I’m just like, why can’t we just be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment.” 

Overall, the major artist’s accusations of the Grammys as well as the corrupt nomination system leaves me to question the validity of the Grammys. While many non-white artists have had major success in the Grammy’s (specifically in R&B and Rap categories), the very system of the Grammys is flawed and it is time for change.