The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Obscurity and uncertainty: The possible discriminatory climate of the Grammys

The Grammys are a prestigious music awards show, but their recent controversies in inclusion and equality have questioned the legitimacy of their awards.
The Recording Academy via Wikipedia
The Grammys are a prestigious music awards show, but their recent controversies in inclusion and equality have questioned the legitimacy of their awards.

Grammy awards are a lauded set of trophies wished to be won by every aspiring musician. But the Grammys are not as fair and forgiving as depicted in the media and telecasts. By employing shady tactics and obscure voting, the Grammys host an unjust process of recognizing artists. 

Determining Winners

The Grammys feature many rounds of nomination and acceptance. The first step is the submission for nomination. These submissions are done by the Recording Academy and other recording companies. All submissions are then screened by a board of over 350 people to ensure eligibility. 

Next comes the nomination process, which is done by the Recording Academy voters. These voters are musicians, lyricists and engineers who applied for the voting process. After exceeding certain criteria and paying an annual fee, the individual is now a member and has the power to vote for nominations. They may nominate in up to 10 categories plus the big four categories (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Artist of the Year). 

But the voters are not the final judges when it comes to deciding nominations. The Recording Academy has quietly employed a committee to review voters’ choices and ensure they fit with the public musical image the Recording Academy wishes to exude. The roster of this private committee is confidential and their actions are furtively hidden from the public. 

The Grammys later announced that this secret committee employed to finalize ballots would be abolished for the 2022 awards show due to controversy and complaints. 

The process of winning a Grammy has been intertwined with politics from the start. Since the nominations are done by a large and generally unregulated voter base, candidates have a higher chance of being nominated if they have made a name for themselves. Voters are more likely to nominate famous individuals solely because of the recognition, making it difficult for small artists to succeed in the Grammys. 

Music industrialists also might purposefully vote for certain candidates to further the prosperity of their brand through the acquired fame. The nature of nominations also brings into question the facility of recognition small artists fail to receive. Large labels might inhibit small artists from even entering the submission process if they believe another artist has a better chance. Small labels might not even have access to the submission process to allow their artists to succeed. 

After the nominations are finalized, the results are released to the public to make predictions and generate excitement for the show. The same process for finalizing nominees is repeated to finalize the winner. The voting base and constraints remain the same.

The ballots are tabulated and the final winners are announced in the Grammy Awards Premiere and telecast series. This year, the winners were announced on Sunday, April 3. 

The voting process is quite limited as the public is not involved in deciding the winners, which allows the Recording Academy to further their own agenda within the music industry. Music fan Kushal Maridu expressed his apprehensions about the lack of public involvement in voting. “These judgements discredit the Grammys. More transparency would be beneficial when keeping tabs on the voting process,” he stated. 

The obscure voting tactics have raised suspicion about the fairness and legitimacy of these awards. 

Recognition for Black Artists

One prominent controversy plaguing the Grammys is the lack of recognition granted to Black artists. Though lauded in categories such as R&B and Hip-Hop, Black artists rarely ever place in the big four categories. In the 64-year history of the Grammys, only 11 Black artists have won album of the year. 

For example, hit artist The Weeknd was surprisingly absent from all nominations in 2021 even though his 2020 album “After Hours” and single “Blinding Lights” reached immense popularity. The Weeknd also performed an incredible half time show in the 2021 Super Bowl, further urging fans to question the lack of nominations for him. 

The Weeknd himself questioned the nature of the voting process the Recording Academy employs. 

The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.

— The Weeknd

With such a large artist publicly condemning the Grammys, fans are likely to follow suit.

A troubling list of highly successful Black artists who have been nominated but never won precedes The Weeknd. Tupac Shakur, an extremely talented and famous rapper, received six nominations but never won. Snoop Dog has been nominated for 16 awards but has also never won. Diana Ross was nominated 12 times, but she, too, never proclaimed a win. The opaque voting process allows veiled racism to easily prevail throughout the award delegation. 

The Grammys prides itself on recognizing musical greatness, but is it a true test if it fails to measure excellence categorically without regards to race?

Constraining Black Artists

Another “favorite” tactic of the Grammys seems to be snubbing artists. Snubbed artists are categorized as those who had monumentally successful releases throughout the year but were not nominated for many main categories. The 2022 Grammys snubbed quite a few large names, including BTS, Drake, Tyler, the Creator and 2021 Artist of the Year Megan Thee Stallion. 

Drake has expressed his distaste towards the Grammys in the past, but his album “Certified Lover Boy” dominated the charts this year, granting him a spot on the ballot. Yet he found himself only nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album, both relatively insignificant categories compared to the big four. He later requested that his nominations be withdrawn.

Tyler, the Creator found himself in a similar situation, with his album “Call Me If You Get Lost” as a top contender for Album of the Year in the eyes of many fans. But he only secured Best Rap Album and Best Melodic Rap Performance.

The past seems to repeat itself as this pattern has been followed countless times regarding Beyoncé’s nominations. Beyoncé has achieved an incredible record in the staggering 28 trophies she has collected, the highest number of trophies awarded to any woman. But Beyoncé has only won once in an arguably notable category: In 2009, “Single Ladies” was granted Song of the Year. Nearly all of her other awards have been in the R&B category. 

All of these artists are direct examples of the containment of Black artists in smaller categories such as rap and R&B.

The categorization itself of music as typically “Black music” created an undeserving precedent that limits Black artists into those particular categories. Historically, a chart named “Black Singles” would be composed of leading Black artists of the day. Now, that category has morphed into what is known as urban music. 

This inflexible categorization is actually quite harmful as explained by Tyler, The Creator during his acceptance speech in 2019 for his album “Igor” receiving Best Rap Album. “It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he stated. 

Tyler continued that the nominations in this category felt meek and underwhelming. “When I hear [urban], I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment. Like, my little cousin wants to play the game. Let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it — that’s what it felt like a bit.”

Music scholar John Vilanova also offered his perspective on the underlying justification for the myriad of Black Artist urban nominations. “When renowned creations by racialized artists are only honored in the categories coded for their respective races and systematically passed over time and time again for mainstream recognition, this belies in-built bias that precludes non-white excellence from being considered on the same terms as white excellence,” he stated. The separation of artists based on race itself negates the victory for upcoming artists on the big screen. 

Anti Teen-pop Group

Another of the biggest snubs in the 2022 Grammys was BTS’s loss in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The award instead went to Doja Cat and SZA’s performance of “Kiss Me More,” both of whom are incredibly deserving Black female artists. Yet BTS’s lack of nominations was a sore subject. BTS’s number one hit “Butter” only received one nomination, yet their faces were plastered on practically every advertisement, commercial break and promotion for the Grammys. 

This loss truly gave the Grammys an unsavory name of clout chasing. 

Avid pop-culture fan Leila Assadi relayed her discontent towards this snub. “All the advertisements featured BTS, hyping up the performance, nomination and award. They sat them down in the front row but then didn’t give them the award,” she stated. The Grammys used the fame and fan-base of BTS to garner more viewership for their production, making the snub feel that much more unjustified. 

The Recording Academy has never showered boy/girl pop groups with kindness throughout the history of the Grammys. Most globally successful teen pop groups, such as Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, the Spice Girls and One Direction have never won significant categories in the Grammys. But BTS seems to exceed the constraints of typical teen pop groups. By involving intense dance, energy and new beats to their music, BTS has set a new level for K-pop in the US. 

Though BTS has faced immense success in foreign award competitions, their efforts do not seem to be enough for the Grammys. Some argue that BTS was snubbed due to racism or xenophobia prevelent in the US. BTS graciously accepted their loss in the 2022 show, yet fans are still sure to be enraged. 

Categorical Distaste for the Grammys

Other artists have not hesitated to vocally express irritation for the secretive nature of the Grammys. Following The Weeknd’s public exposé of the show, countless prominent artists followed suit, including Zayn Malik, Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi and Ariana Grande. 

Zayn Malik tweeted a flurry of anger towards the award show, “F—- the Grammys and everyone associated…” He then later sequenced it with a legitimate qualm summing up everyone’s complaints. “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 favoritism, racism and networking politics to influence the voting process,” he wrote.

American rapper Machine Gun Kelly also tweeted against the Grammys, tweeting statements such as, “wtf is wrong with the Grammys” and, “winning a fan voted award >>>>.” By shifting prominence towards public voting, such tweets garner heavy fan-based support. 

With such notable musical figures speaking out against the Grammys, fans are sure to quit viewership. 

Assadi related to the many fans straying away from supporting the Grammys. “When fans see artists who have had extremely successful years but are not represented in the Grammys, it can make them question the voting process,” she stated. “If artists don’t trust the Grammys, why would fans support it? These artists calling out the Grammys reduces its relevance and credibility especially by neglecting awards to artists that objectively deserve them.”

Are the Grammys Overcompensating? 

With all this controversy plaguing the Grammys, the future of this award show seems to be uncertain. The Grammys are far from achieving universal equality, but steps have been taken in the 2022 award show to “level the playing field.”

The Grammys attempted to “surprise” viewers by awarding proportionally more gramophones to Black artists. Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” swept the Grammys, earning Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars all the awards they were nominated for (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, best R&B song and best R&B performance). Jon Batiste won five of his 11 nominations including Album of the Year, the first time a Black artist has won this trophy since 2008; Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More” earned Best Pop Duo/Group Performance; Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s “Family Ties” won Best Rap Performance among many more Black artists.

These are certainly progressive awards, but they beg the question of the intention behind these nominations. Are the Grammy’s truly appreciating music or merely making up for past errors? The 2022 Grammys were surely an exciting spectacle, but the Recording Academy decided on safe awards, with traditional-sounding music championed over novelty. 

With all the controversy surrounding the Grammys, the credibility and true authoritorship of the Recording Academy is scrutinized by fans and artists alike. To progress past any racism or discrimination within award delegation, the Academy must take a step back and dissect the system and facility to which winners are being chosen. The public and media have just begun to scratch the surface of political agendas within the music industry today.

View Comments (2)
Donate to Spartan Shield
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, Iowa. Your contribution will allow us to purchase needed equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Anagha Sudhindra
Anagha Sudhindra, Copy Editor
Anagha Sudhindra serves as a copy editor for the Spartan Shield (2021-2022) and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the print Spartan Shield (2022-2023). In school, she heavily involves herself in both clubs and academics. As an avid student, her favorite class is AP physics and she will continue her education by majoring in a STEM field with a research focus. Anagha’s hard work earned her a spot in the National Honors Society Chapter at PV. Outside of her academics, Anagha takes part in Spartan Assembly. She also participates in ethics bowl where she analyzes and debates current ethical issues. She has played the flute for four years in the school band. Her musical talent has made her a three-year member of the Southeast Iowa Bandmasters honor band. Outside of school, Anagha has played in the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra for three years. Apart from band, Anagha participates in First Tech challenge where she volunteers to help her community and designs parts for robots. You can also find her at Mathnasium where she works as a tutor. Anagha attends art classes where her favorite medium is charcoal. Anagha enjoys expressing her creativity and she looks forward to doing so on the Spartan Shield.
Donate to Spartan Shield
Our Goal

Comments (2)

All Spartan Shield Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • K

    Kushi MariduApr 13, 2022 at 7:17 pm

    lil nas x got robbed best music video too

  • S

    Salar CheemaApr 5, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    for real, like why didn’t 24kgoldn win anything? the Grammys have to be racist!!!

Activate Search
Obscurity and uncertainty: The possible discriminatory climate of the Grammys