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Multiple wins at the Grammy spark controversy

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Unknown author via Wikimedia Commons

Unknown author via Wikimedia Commons

Unknown author via Wikimedia Commons

Kelsie Foltz, Staff Contributor

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This year’s Grammy Awards were filled with heart wrenching performances by empowered female vocalists like Kesha, the women and men alike wore white roses to symbolize their support for the Times Up movement and when Alessia Cara won for best new artist she called for equal opportunities in the music industry. These can all be considered a win by equal rights and feminists everywhere. These accomplishments, however, were the only progressive successes of the night.

The award show went under fire after only 12 of the 84 awards were given to females or groups that had female members. Looking at the gender breakdown of nominees, it was found that just 9.3% of them between 2013 and 2018 have been female. After airing, Twitter unleashed its anger towards the award show and #GrammysSoMale was trending worldwide.

Many felt as though the women who were up for nominations were robbed of victories. One example was when artist SZA was nominated for five awards including Best R&B performance and Best R&B song, only to leave empty handed. Others were outraged when Kesha’s powerful song about her sexual abuse “Praying” lost to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” for Best Pop Solo Performance.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow was one of the main targets of the backlash after his comments regarding the gender inequality seemed less than appropriate. “I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls,” he answered, “who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level — to step up, because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow said.

Many female artists responded to these outrageous comments including former record executive and author Dorothy Carvello who said, “Neil getting up there and saying that women should ‘step up’ just shows just out of touch he is and how out of touch the organization is.” P!NK also fought back on twitter, tweeting, “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ – women have been stepping since the beginning of time,” the singer posted “Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women owned music this year. They’ve been killing it. And every year before this.”

Not only were viewers angered by the shows lack of diversity in gender but the lack of genre representation sent viewers over the edge. When it came time to announce the album of the year, many viewers were shocked and disappointed to see Bruno Mars’ retro-focused pop album “24K Magic” won over hip-hop releases from Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z.

Many felt as though the Grammys were denying a major award to rap, which has been the culture’s dominant musical genre for almost two decades now. This is not the first time that the award show has ignored the success of rap. Over the years the academy has been called out multiple times  by Kanye West, J. Cole, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z, who went home empty-handed despite having the most nominations this year.

It is also important to note that Chance the Rapper was the first black hip-hop artist since the 90’s to win the award for best new artist last year. Trophies for song and record of the year have never gone to rap artists in the awards history. And had Jay-Z or Lamar taken the night’s biggest honor, album of the year, he would have only been the third rap artist to do so.

When Portnow was asked whether the telecast needed to have more rap showcased on-air this year given the genre’s dominance in nominations, he said he didn’t think so, at least not during this year’s 60th anniversary return to the East Coast.


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Multiple wins at the Grammy spark controversy