Diversity in the Grammy Nominations
By Julia Quynh
Photo by MusicWeek
Can the Grammy Awards still be called “Music’s biggest night”? The esteemed ceremony has always sparked fiery debates about its impartiality. The 63rd Annual Grammy Award nominees were announced on November 24, and this year is no exception.
Last year, the Recording Academy faced controversy. After a rocky start to the term of the Academy’s first-ever female president and CEO, Deborah Dugan, she sent an email to human-resources alleging that “something was seriously amiss at the Academy.” She alleged various conflicts of interest, voting irregularities, and financial mismanagement, and a toxic culture rampant in the Academy’s governance. Shortly after, Dugan was placed on leave for accusations of misconduct after holding the position for only five months. Since she has been vocal and critical about what she describes as the “boy’s club” controlling the Academy.
The Recording Academy made an effort to improve by hiring its first-ever diversity and inclusion officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones. It has also partnered with Color of Change for various diversity initiatives and announced an expansion of the organization to include 2,300 new voting members, 48% being female and 32% being of underrepresented racial groups.
This year's nominations have acknowledged women more than in previous years. For the first time in the awards' history, the nominees for Best Rock Performance and Best Country Album are all women or women-fronted groups. However, despite commercial and critical success, some artists still did not receive recognition. Famed artists such as Halsey and the Weeknd called out the Recording Academy for their “snubs” in the nominations.
Halsey's third studio album, Manic, was shut out of any nominations despite its positive reception and a number 2 debut on the American Billboard charts. Her successful singles Without Me, Graveyard, and You Should Be Sad fared no better. Even more shockingly, the Canadian-born singer and songwriter the Weeknd was shut out of any Grammy nominations despite his success with his 2020 album After Hours. His fourth studio album was released to wide acclaim, some calling it an artistic reinvention with impressive narrative cohesion and introspection. It managed to remain at the top of the US Billboard charts for four consecutive weeks. Yet he received no nominations.
Following the nomination announcement, the Weeknd tweeted, “The Grammys remain corrupt,” and added, “you owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.” Later on, Halsey made a statement on her Instagram story accusing the organization of selecting their nominees based on “behind the scenes private performances.” Halsey wrote that “While I am thrilled for my talented friends who were recognized this year, I am hoping for more transparency or reform.” She also said that the Grammy awards are not always about the quality of music.
Korean boy-group BTS set a milestone in history by becoming the first-ever K-Pop act nominated in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category with their record-breaking single, Dynamite. There have still been discussions over whether the song was snubbed for the Record of the Year category.
“It’s so unfair that BIPOC artists get so mistreated by the music industry,” states Valeria Campo Cervantes, a second-year Cinema Communications student. “But we live in a white man’s world, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The Grammy Awards have celebrated music since 1958. Still, in a modern landscape emphasizing equality, the awards no longer hold much significance without an even playing field for all artists, ensured by a transparent, reformed organization.