The Grammys’ Casual Racism Has Gone on for Too Long

While+81%25+of+Billboard%27s+Top+10+best-selling+albums+are+made+by+non-white+or+mixed-race+groups+of+artists%2C+musicians+of+color+only+received+26.7%25+of+Grammy+nominations+from+2012+to+2020.+Staff+illustration%3A+Tatum+Herrin.

Tatum Herrin

While 81% of Billboard’s Top 10 best-selling albums are made by non-white or mixed-race groups of artists, musicians of color only received 26.7% of Grammy nominations from 2012 to 2020. Staff illustration: Tatum Herrin.

Tatum Herrin, Staff Writer

After 63 years of elaborate celebrations, the Grammy Awards have gained impressive prestige. Considered to be the most significant award in the music world, nearly all big names in the American music industry are involved. The show has carved its way into our culture. Musicians all over the country dream of one day receiving a Grammy, the ultimate confirmation of their talent and worth in the musical world. But in recent years, viewers have been catching on to a dark underbelly of prejudice beneath the glamour.

Today, more than 81% of Billboard’s Top 10 best-selling albums are made by non-white or mixed-race groups of artists, according to research done by ad agency DraftFCB. However, it appears as though the Grammys have not gotten the memo. From 2012 to 2020, musicians of color received only 26.7% of Grammy nominations. Nominees have critiqued the show for putting up a front of diversity by presenting “racialized” categories like R&B and Hip-Hop, almost saying, “Yeah, you’re good, for a Black person.” Artists of color have claimed that the Grammys put them in unfitting categories for their music purely because of their ethnicity.

Tyler Gregory Okonma, also known as Tyler, the Creator, claims his album IGOR is not a rap album and was only nominated for a rap award at the 2020 Grammys because he is Black — hinting that the categories are less about music and more about segregation. According to Splinter, the most coveted “Big Four” categories — Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist — almost always go to white people, while artists of color typically win awards in genres with which their race is often associated like the R&B, Rap and Urban categories. 

Pop icon Beyoncé’s victories are a prime example of which categories Black artists like herself are ‘allowed’ to win. Beyoncé has won 22 Grammys in her career, and only four of those Grammy Awards don’t have the words “R&B” or “Urban” (or both) in them, according to The Undefeated.

Insider calls Beyoncé’s album “Lemonade” a “product of an icon at her creative peak,” and yet it lost Album of the Year to white artist Adele and her album 25 in 2017. Additionally, her album Beyoncé lost Album of the Year to “Morning Phase” by Beck in 2015. Adele’s acceptance speech was more of an homage to Beyonce and rejection than an acceptance, which speaks volumes to Beyonce’s albums’ worthiness.

“I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled, and I’m very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyoncé,” Adele said in her speech. “And this album to me, the Lemonade album, was just so monumental, Beyoncé, so monumental, and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing, […] and I love you, I always have, and I always will.”

The list of snubbed artists of color goes on. Since 2010, albums and songs by critically acclaimed artists of color like Frank Ocean, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar have lost to white artists in one of the four major categories. Statistics in articles by Insider, The Undefeated and Splinter raise the question whether or not these instances are an internalized racial bias within the voting system rather than purely coincidental.

The Grammys’ most recent scandal involved music prevalent in America that was written and recorded internationally. Korean-pop group BTS has broken several records since its debut in 2013. Not only are they the first Korean group to reach the top of the Billboard 200 in the U.S., but they’re also the first to do it three times. Additionally, they’ve become the fastest music group since The Beatles to earn four #1 albums in under two years. 

Due to their popularity and hyper-active fan base, their performance and nomination amassed attention for the awards show this year. However, despite their well-received performance and record-breaking achievements in the past year, they left the event Grammy-less, losing to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category.

After BTS’s loss, fans took to Twitter where they raised virtual pitchforks and torches, claiming that the Grammys used the group for its popularity. By the end of the night, #Scammys was trending. BTS fans questioned whether or not BTS even had a chance from the start because the group is from outside the United States.

Despite these questionable occurrences, the Grammys march on as one of the most popular award shows. The bottom line is that the Grammys will not change if its audience fails to recognize its flaws. After all, the show’s prestige comes not from its funding or history but from how it fits into society today and the discourse and level of interest surrounding it. If the Grammys are to change their ways, big names of the industry and average music listeners alike need to boycott its presence in American music culture. We need to make an effort to avoid watching the show, and we need to stop treating a Grammy like a fair accomplishment and source of praise for artists.