Annually, the Grammy nominations encourage criticism and head-scratching — and the nominees for the 2021 ceremony on January 31 are not any totally different. As ordinary, there are shock nods (Coldplay for album of the 12 months? Actually?) and snubs that depart us asking “However what about…?” (poor The Chicks). This 12 months, although, in a post-George Floyd world the place Black Lives Matter has gone past zeitgeist standing into the realm of faith, most of us most likely didn’t count on to note a dearth of Black expertise in any of the main classes.
The Recording Academy went to nice lengths this previous 12 months to not deserve the accusations of racist that Kanye West and Beyoncé followers have leveled at them lately. It even dropped the phrase “city” from all of its class names, as music, they determined, shouldn’t be labeled with racial designations. It was a very good name, however many of us puzzled if it was all discuss… so-called performative activism. Would they go additional than renaming classes and really begin recognizing extra Black expertise the place it issues most, in the main races (album, file and music of the 12 months, and finest new artist), quite than simply persevering with to dump the bulk of them into these renamed “city” classes?
A have a look at the nominees for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards present that not a lot has really modified. There’s a dearth of Black expertise in album of the 12 months, the greatest class, wherein solely two of the eight nominees characteristic Black voices. Alongside Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Submit Malone, Dua Lipa, Haim and Jacob Collier, biracial singer Jhené Aiko was nominated for her third album, “Chilombo,” and the duo Black Pumas, which options Black vocalist Eric Burton, scored a nod for the deluxe version of their self-titled debut album.
The latter was initially launched throughout the earlier Grammy eligibility interval and earned Black Pumas a finest new artist nomination final 12 months. Talking of final 12 months, three of 2019’s eight album of the 12 months nominees had been recorded by Black expertise. The earlier 12 months, the quantity was 5. Why are they going even farther in the incorrect path? The final Black artist to win album of the 12 months was Herbie Hancock for “River: The Joni Letters” in 2008. Each Adele and present album of the 12 months nominee Taylor Swift (for “Folklore”) have received twice since then. The 2021 Grammys are unlikely to reverse the shedding streak for Black musicians.
Is this actually the finest the Recording Academy can do? There are not any different albums by Black artists which are as worthy of being rewarded as an expanded version of an album that got here out in the center of 2019? What about The Weeknd, a earlier Grammy favourite (10 nominations, three wins) whose “Blinding Lights” was one of the most inescapable singles of 2020? His fourth album, “After Hours,” was critically acclaimed and commercially profitable, incomes him two MTV Video Music Awards in August. This could have been his Grammy cycle.
But, the Weeknd walked away with zero nominations, as “After Hours” grew to become his first album since his 2013 debut “Kiss Land” to not get any Grammy love. Different commercially and/or critically profitable albums launched by Black artists throughout the 2020 eligibility interval and handed over for album of the 12 months embrace Kehlani’s “It Was Good Till It Wasn’t,” Chloe x Halle’s “Ungodly Hour,” Brandy’s “B7” (a veteran launch with a 78 Metacritic score, 5 factors larger than Coldplay’s “On a regular basis Life”), Jadakiss’s “Ignatius,” Stormzy’s “Heavy Is the Head,” and Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s finest rap album nominee “Alfredo,” which has a whopping 88 Metacritic score.
The 38-year-old rapper and 43-year-old DJ will compete for finest rap album in a class the place the common age of the six nominees is 42. That competitors additionally consists of Nas, 47, an iconic rapper who has 14 nominations (with no wins), 13 of them in rap classes. HIs 2020 launch, “King’s Illness,” might have been his shot at lastly sitting at the big-four desk at the Grammys. But it solely managed a nomination for finest rap album, a class that will not qualify as ageist (no less than not this 12 months) however is as soon as once more overloaded with testosterone, which suggests there was no room for Megan Thee Stallion’s “Suga” EP.
None of the finest rap album nominees are competing for album of the 12 months, so regardless of who takes the gong, will probably be the second time in a row that the winner of the greatest prize in the hottest music style hasn’t been deemed worthy of competing for album of the 12 months. Tyler the Creator, the incumbent winner for his 2019 album “Igor,” criticized the Recording Academy for not citing it in album of the 12 months, and the ghetto-izing of Black music varieties continues, regardless of the transfer to distance the Grammys from the racial implications of “city.”
The issue, although, isn’t actually with the phrase “city.” It’s the padding of the Grammys with classes for “Black” performers, regardless of what names they go by. What does “finest melodic rap efficiency” even imply? These classes are speculated to place the Recording Academy as being inclusive, however in the finish, they merely give them locations to dump music by Black artists to allow them to ignore them in the majors.
Grammy categorization by race really works each methods. Justin Bieber obtained 4 nominations this 12 months, three of them for his “Adjustments” album, and after the nominations had been introduced, he posted on Instagram that he discovered it “unusual” that it “shouldn’t be being acknowledged as an R&B album.” Bieber has some extent. “Adjustments” definitely has a powerful R&B taste, and if it had been recorded by a Black artist, it’s onerous to think about it might have made it into any of the pop classes.
The Recording Academy did welcome Bieber to the nation classes, by way of a finest nation duo/group efficiency nod for his Dan + Shay collaboration “10,000 Hours,” and he wasn’t the style’s solely Grammy shock. With a finest nation vocal efficiency nod for her single “Black Like Me,” Mickey Guyton grew to become the first Black girl to name herself a rustic nominee since the Pointer Sisters scored two nation nods (and a win for “Fairytale”) in finest nation vocal efficiency by a duo or group in the mid ‘70s. Like Black Pumas’ file of the 12 months nominee “Colours,” “Black Like Me” is a musical treatise on racial id, and like “Colours,” it wasn’t acknowledged in the songwriting classes. Does this imply the Recording Academy wasn’t actually listening?
In a race that includes robust competitors from Eric Church, Vince Gill and Miranda Lambert, Guyton has subsequent to no probability of being declared a winner. Her nomination might be her reward, and the Recording Academy’s too. They are often seen as, if not fairly woke, no less than woke-ing up. It’s too unhealthy that in the greatest class of all, the place they may very well be really driving change in an trade that has traditionally failed to provide Black performers their due, Grammy voters are nonetheless asleep at the wheel.