Opinion Column: The Grammys are a Sham

By Erin Robinson

On Sunday, on March 14th of 2021, the 63rd annual Grammy Awards took place, recognizing artists from all genres for their musical talent and abilities. Notable events, such as Beyoncé now having the most Grammys awarded, or performances from groups including BTS and Black Puma, made the night much more exciting. However, that isn’t to say that the Grammys choose who truly deserve the awards; far from it.

For starters, many groups are always overshadowed. While BTS, a Korean pop-group, did in fact perform at the awards, they did not get a single Grammy this year. Their performance, showcasing both English and Korean, took place in South Korea rather than with any other performance in California. Their hard work was overshadowed, and awards for their albums, including Map of the Soul:7, which was about finding hope and loving yourself. Their albums helped many through the uncertain times of the pandemic, and it didn’t help matters when they didn’t receive a single award.

Not only this, but artists of color who made popular songs,including Frank Ocean, were not mentioned. While this wouldn’t be discriminatory, as people of color did indeed win, including Megan Thee Stallion, it simply goes to show that there will always be a gap in the Hollywood Industry. While Lizzo, a black performer who received a Grammy in the past, did indeed host one of the awards, there were few performers of color who were even nominated for an award; let alone ones who won one. Aside from Megan Thee Stallion, Beyonce, H.E.R. and around two others, awards were given to white artists. This wouldn’t be considered a race issue had the audience’s decisions mattered, as many billboard top artists in 2020 were people of color. 

So, why did Taylor Swift win Album of the Year, and why am I not surprised? Sure, Taylor Swift is popular, but she’s always been popular. I can remember being in elementary school and hearing her music on the radio, it’s infuriating to hear that she is still being recognized for the same music she’s always put out. At least Beyoncé, who’s reigned in the industry much longer, has introduced new genres and explored new music; while Taylor Swift has continued to release song after song about heartbreak, finding yourself and heartbreak again. Of course, other artists have used this idea before, but none have had such a constant rate of success as Taylor. 

And how did this pay off for her? Well, she got Album of the Year for her album, ”Cardigan.”This beat out albums such as Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding” and Harry Styles’ “Fine Line.” which garnered such immense followings that it was asinine for her to beat them…again. Their works, discussing themes of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and other themes relating to mental health, spoke to many listeners as a result of their subject matter, and encouraged many to seek help if they needed it. 

While Taylor Swift is certainly talented, this doesn’t mean that she necessarily deserved this award, as she didn’t have such strong messages in her songs. Aside from this, from the beginning of her career, she’s had many people behind her, while artists such as Post Malone or Harry Styles had to work with either a group or by themselves to get to the point they’re at today. Her long-running audience from day one has made her receiving awards an absolute by this point, making the premise of the awards being a surprise less than satisfactory. 

This brings to another point: how are the Grammys actually calculated? Well, you’d assume that the votes of the people would go towards the ultimate winners, but in actuality, it’s far from the truth. See, like any other television contest, there is already a winner picked out by the time the audience gets to speak. This meant that the awards were already chosen from the get-go, with the voices of the people being overshadowed by the music industry and how much money each performer gave to perform. 

Yes, you read that right; the artists paid to perform at the awards, just like they do at events such as the Super Bowl. So if you’re anything like me, who finds music through friends and social media, you more than likely heard about their performances due to their push on such platforms. This idea sounds wonderful on paper, but for artists with immense popularity as a whole, it doesn’t introduce any newcomers to the industry, let alone discourages diversity as a result.

The music industry has come a long way, but there is still a need for change. Performances, including  those by Lil Baby, which depicted a Black Lives Matter protest, showed just how artists should be using their platform: to spread the message they want people to know. His performance, calling out Joe Biden by name to stop the police brutality, made the rest of the award show, in my opinion, null and void. And yet, even though this was a powerful message, he didn’t win a single award that night. Sounds like the industry didn’t want to worry about negative backlash from his protests, if you ask me.

In conclusion, the Grammys are, and have been, a sham. Awards are planned in advance with winners in mind, the audience has no real voice, and artists who deserve awards either don’t get a nomination or lose to those with more money and success than them. Just as music shall play out in a song on repeat, there will always be disparity within any musical awards; we’ve just been too blind to see it.

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