Should We Trust the Grammys?

By Emma Manesis

The Grammys are widely known as music’s “biggest night”. A highly coveted event that brings together some of music’s biggest names for a massive red carpet, showcasing incredible looks and performances, all in one night. With the 64th annual Grammy nominations recently announced, it got me thinking about just how much interest we put into this organization. The Grammy Awards appear to always be an exciting time. We’ve been trained to believe in their value from decades of forceful advertising, to the point where we even care about the fashion worn at these Awards. Despite its appearance as an enjoyable night recognizing some of our favourite artists, how trustworthy and fair are the Grammys?

In the past decade, many musicians have begun to recognize and speak up on issues regarding the Grammys. In 2016, Frank Ocean did not submit his album, Blonde, for awards consideration because he believed that award systems are outdated. The Weeknd’s album, After Hours, was anticipated to be a strong contender for the Grammy Awards in 2021, and he was even scheduled to perform. Despite having one of the most successful and critically acclaimed albums, his name did not appear on the list of nominees. As a result, he boycotted the Grammys entirely, and other musicians such as Kid Cudi and Tinashe came forward to show their support of his actions. During the Grammys in 2020, Tyler, the Creator called out the award show’s categories during a press conference. This happened after he won “Best Rap Album”, for Igor, stating that he’s happy to have been recognized but felt like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment. Igor’s genre can be classified as alternative R&B, pop or funk, so why was he nominated in the rap category? Artists of colour usually receive awards in genres that are affiliated with their race rather than their music, such as Rap, R&B and Urban, whereas white creators tend to win the highly coveted awards, such as Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Popular artists like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar have all lost major awards to white artists in years where they were expected to win. The continuous mistreatment and disregard of artists of colour shows that these occurrences aren’t accidental, but instead are actually the result of racial bias within the voting committee.

The Grammys’ voting process is also incredibly unethical and makes it easy for personal bias and manipulated results to occur. In 2020, just weeks before the 62nd annual Grammys, former CEO of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, came forward with allegations against the Grammy committee. To give a little background on Dugan, she became Recording Academy president in August 2019, replacing Neil Portnow. She was hired after Portnow made controversial remarks in 2018 in response to complaints that the Academy’s voting was sexist and lacking female representation. Instead of taking accountability, he blamed female artists, saying they needed to “step up” if they wanted to be acknowledged. He later “stepped down” from his position for obvious reasons that weaken the Grammys credibility even more. One of Dugan’s allegations was that voting irregularities occur very frequently at the hands of the voting committee. There are 1,200 members and final selections for awards and nominations are overseen by “secret committees”. These “secret committees” are made up of voters who have close connections to artists, and these artists are therefore given first consideration for award nominations. This also means that if an artist speaks out against the Recording Academy, it can result in the voting committee boycotting their music for consideration. The Grammys are intended to be an awards ceremony that recognizes the best in music, but with a system that is so easily manipulated, the goal of these awards is defeated. 

The Grammys’ failure to make significant, positive change is harming the way the public views them and the music industry itself. More and more people have started to notice the flaws hidden behind the Grammys facade and ratings have been declining each year. If they don’t take the steps to properly address and fix these issues, people may no longer trust the Grammys’ to be the pinnacle of music recognition. The Grammys’ purpose is to celebrate excellence in music and recording arts, but allowing their voting committee to choose artists based on personal bias makes this nearly impossible to achieve. If this behaviour continues to be ignored, will anyone want to watch the Grammys again?