The Grammy Awards represent the politics of the music industry; a spectacle of misogyny, racism, and façades. This ceremony treats music like a product, instead of an art form, which is evident given who received awards this year.
Lorde, the only female artist nominated for Album of the Year, was not given the chance to perform. Every male artist nominated was given a spot. Naturally, a lot of people noticed and criticized Neil Portnow, Recording Academy President, for not including her. His response to the mountain of criticism was despicable, “[Women need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.” This got a number of responses from women in the music industry including P!nk who tweeted, “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of time.” In 2017 a USC study found that women represent 16.8% of the industry, but only 9.3% of total nominations were given between 2013 and 2018. The Recording Academy is clearly biased towards men and needs to take a step out of the past. Your time is up Neil Portnow—how will you respond next year?
In the entire history of the Grammys only 10 black artists have won Album of the Year. Lamar took home four Grammys for DAMN., but did not receive this prestigious award presumably because it is a hip-hop record. His record is a masterful collection of art that pushes the envelope for hip-hop, social justice, and story-telling. Could you say the same about 24K Magic?
Another big failure of the night is Alessia Cara beating SZA for Best New Artist. This comes as no shock seeing as Cara’s music has the same pop-infused formula of the Taylor Swift ilk, whereas SZA’s contains a sonic journey with incredible grooves, lyrics that are deeply personal, melodies that you’ll sing all day, and crisp production. This pattern is omnipresent in the history of this award ceremony. It’s time to stop supporting this racist and misogynistic platform.
I support Kendrick, SZA, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Janelle Monáe, Chance the Rapper, Kanye, Frank Ocean, and Lorde. Kendrick pushes cultural boundaries with music a way that invites us to engage with our privilege. SZA is a force of vulnerability—openly addressing misogyny and racism in creative and open ways. I support Lorde, Kesha, and Lady Gaga, who have made a profound impact although they’ve faced misogyny, oppression, and objectification.
The Grammys have a terrible history of silencing or lessening the impact of women and people of color. Can we celebrate cultural impact over fame? The music industry celebrates money over artistry, but shouldn’t it be the other way around?