Is it time to say goodbye to the Grammys?

The music award is once again under scrutiny

The Weeknd and Zayn Malik spoke out ahead of the event.
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Like many events over the past year, the 2021 Grammy Awards looked very different—from COVID-19 restrictions to an increased appreciation for female artists, a lot had changed from years prior. Still, the Grammys weren’t different enough.

This year’s Grammys was a celebration of many women in the music industry. From Beyoncé officially becoming the most-awarded female artist in Grammy history to the epic televised performance of “WAP” from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, this year’s event was exciting—and encouraging for women artists.

However, ahead of the event, several musicians were vocal about the controversial nomination and voting process. The Weeknd, who received zero nominations this year despite the success of his latest album, After Hours, made it clear he would be boycotting future shows. Zayn Malik was another artist who was quick to take to social media and express his disdain for the show with his “F-ck the grammys” tweet. Malik went on to criticize the racism, favouritism, networking, and lack of transparency that exists within the nomination and voting process, emphasizing that his “tweet was not personal or about eligibility.”

Do I agree with what Zayn and The Weeknd have to say about the Grammys? Absolutely.

An artist’s success in the music industry relies on their ability to network and shake hands with the right people. On top of that, we would be naive to think that any nomination or voting processes lack racism—this criticism isn’t new to the Grammys.

It’s encouraging to see that musicians are talking about how the flaws that lurk behind the scenes of this event. However, this issue of racism and favouritism goes beyond the Grammys—this is what the music and entertainment industries have always looked like.

The system begs for more transparency—we don’t know how the secret voting committee is actually formed, or who’s on it. Awards Season is no stranger to the racist undertones of the nomination and voting processes and the headlines that come with it. Every single year, we’re forced to question the integrity of voting committees, whether it’s 2017’s #OscarsSoWhite tackling the inability to recognize diverse talents across the film industry, or the recent controversy surrounding The Hollywood Foreign Press Association—responsible for The Golden Globes—and the lack of Black members in the organization.

There’s an obvious need for more inclusive representation across all industries, and it’s great that people are taking a stand—it’s why I think we might not need to say goodbye to the Grammys just yet. There’s a demand for change in the music industry, and the Grammys should listen.

While I celebrate moments and wins from this year’s Grammys, like Blue Ivy winning her first award, making her the second-youngest Grammy winner ever, I’ll echo Cardi B’s sentiments on the matter: I think we should still celebrate and acknowledge the new and independent talents that have been recognized this year, and I think it’s possible to do that while still remaining critical of the system and how nominees were chosen.

The Grammys might need some serious structural changes—the music industry as a whole has been in need of those same changes for a long time.

When you do a deep dive into the history of the Grammys and make note of how much Black talent actually gets recognized, it puts things into perspective: for example, the last Black woman who won a Grammy for Album of the Year was Lauryn Hill in 1999, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

I don’t doubt for one second that the Grammys are unfair. Sadly, this begs another question: which awards shows aren’t?

This is an issue that must be addressed by the entertainment business as a whole. It doesn’t mean we have to say goodbye to the Grammys—but awards season is in desperate need of a structural makeover.

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