Every year, the announcement of the annual Grammy nominations provokes criticism, and this year is no different. This year, in an effort to diversify, the Grammys changed the urban contemporary category to progressive R&B, best rap/sung performance to best melodic rap performance and world music to global music. Despite these hollow gestures, too much remains the same, again calling into question the relevance of the award show. This year, Beyoncé leads with nine nominations, and Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Roddy Rich all tied with six nominations.
Before nominations were announced, The Weeknd was expected to sweep the nominations with his smash hit “Blinding Lights” and his chart-topping album “After Hours.” While the record and album were both submitted and eligible for nomination, The Weeknd was surprisingly missing from the entire catalog of categories.
In another shocking move by the Grammys, Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” only gained nominations for best alternative music album and best rock song and performance for “Shameika.” The album, however, was universally received as one of the best albums of the year, and it has the highest Metacritic rating of any 2020 album with 98/100 and a 10 on Pitchfork, which is notoriously impossible to achieve. “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” could have easily won album of the year, but the Grammys shocked everyone when it wasn’t even nominated.
Instead, Coldplay secured a nomination for album of the year with their album “Everyday Life,” surprising many. The album did not receive much fanfare, and many were shocked to discover that the band even released a record in 2020. It’s shocking to see Coldplay get nominated for album of the year when it made no waves and wasn’t groundbreaking in comparison to the many other more memorable and sensational albums released.
International artists, such as BLACKPINK, BTS’ “Dynamite” and Bad Bunny’s “YHLQMDLG,” were shut out of the popular Grammy categories while BLACKPINK was completely shut out. BTS was relegated to best pop duo/group performance, and Bad Bunny was annoyingly relegated to the best Latin pop or urban album category.
And while Harry Styles may have received his first nominations after being nominated in the best pop vocal album category for his sophomore album “Fine Line,” the artist was also shut out of all four major categories. Styles still respectively picked up three nominations including best pop vocal performance for his single “Watermelon Sugar” and best music video for “Adore You.” However, “Fine Line” is acclaimed and was included on a Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list, a major feat for the artist’s sophomore album, making it deserving of being nominated in at least one of the major categories.
Beyoncé deservedly swept with a whopping total of nine nominations, making her the most nominated female artist ever; however, this proves weary because while she may be the most nominated female artist, the Recording Academy has a habit of not granting her the awards she rightly deserves.
The many snubs of the Grammys illustrate how they may no longer matter, and their relevance continues to fade year by year as they continue to pass up worthy artists. No matter how much outrage and criticism the Recording Academy receives, they continue to make the same mistake year after year.
The Grammys has also once again proved how out-of-touch they are culturally. While Megan Thee Stallion rightfully became a first-time nominee with her record “Savage” receiving nominations for record of the year, best rap performance, best rap song and best new artist, the Recording Academy has especially proved how out-of-touch they are with their nominations for best rap albums and their questionable renaming of some categories.
The best rap album category was filled with so many odd and puzzling nominees that it’s almost embarrassing for the Recording Academy. The category is filled with nominees 35 years or older: Jay Electronica (44 years old), Freddie Gibbs (38) and Alchemist (43), Nas (47), Royce da 5’9” (43) and D’Smoke (35). Younger and more universally known artists and rappers such as Lil Baby, Da Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, Pop Smoke and Juice Wrld were notably absent from the category. Female rappers were also notably absent from the number of nominees for the category despite it being one of the biggest years for women in rap. None of the nominees for best rap album were nominated for album of the year, illustrating how once again, an artist from the most popular music genre has not been deemed worthy enough by the Recording Academy to take home the biggest prize.
In 2019, winner of the best rap album category Tyler the Creator criticized the Recording Academy for labeling him as a rapper when he doesn’t consider himself one. He rightfully critiqued the academy for placing Black artists in the rap or urban categories when they make genre-bending work. Not only is the practice out-of-touch, but it’s frankly racist, especially considering the racial implications of the “urban” category. However, the Recording Academy still hasn’t learned from their mistakes. In response to the criticism, the Recording Academy has dropped the word “urban” from all their categories, but what does “progressive R&B,” and “best melodic rap performance” even mean? And does changing “world music” to “global music” even make a difference?
While these categories are supposed to position the Recording Academy to be more inclusive, they have proved again that they will continue to dump Black and international artists into these categories to avoid nominating them in major categories.
By continuing to overlook deserving artists, especially in the major categories, the Grammys’ relevancy has continued to be put into question. By failing year after year to nominate or award a diverse range of nominees, the Grammys continues to fail at being the catalyst for a driving change in the music industry that has notoriously failed to recognize artists of color, women and Black artists.