Liu ’25: Stop valuing the Grammys

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On Sunday April 3, the 64th annual Grammy Awards took place in Las Vegas. Hosted by the Recording Academy, the Grammys are billed as the nation’s most prestigious music awards event. But, especially in recent years, viewership has been declining and critics say the awards show is becoming less and less relevant. In the face of an evolving music industry where social media has transformed the relationship between listeners and musicians, the Grammys and other similar prestigious music awards only serve to arbitrarily stratify and assign value to art in a way which benefits connected artists who are predominantly white. Due to the exclusion of black artists and opaque selection processes, these award shows are at best irrelevant and at worst contrary to the purpose of the music and the impact it has on listeners.

Historically, there have been major issues with the way the Grammys are nominated and awarded. In 2020, Deborah Dugan, then CEO of the Recording Academy, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging corruption in the voting process. Specifically, she cited industry elite “secret committees” that undermine the voting process with undemocratic practices and claimed committee members “choose artists with whom they have personal or business relationships.” . Although these secret committees were abolished in 2021 and the Recording Academy reformed the voting process, the committees are still composed solely of members of the Recording Academy. To become a voting member of the Recording Academy, one must be actively working in the music or recording industry. Prospective Voting Members of The Recording Academy must also be recommended by other music industry professionals. So despite the reforms, the fact remains that those who vote for Grammy nominations and awards still tend to be elites within the music industry – many of whom presumably have ties to Grammy-nominated artists.

When a group of interconnected industry professionals are given sole authority to determine nominations and awards, the inevitable result is ambiguous and unclear methods of awarding the Grammys. Viewers and listeners of music have no way of knowing if music and musicians are truly rewarded for musical impact, creativity and other merit-based traits rather than relationships or industry power. The Grammys are therefore more a celebration of already established musicians and creators than a place to honor a more diverse and up-and-coming group of artists.

Largely due to the ambiguity of the voting process and these membership restrictions, the Grammys have encountered many controversies regarding diversity, equity and inclusion over the years. Since the awards ceremony was established in 1957, only 11 black artists have won album of the year. The Grammys have been repeatedly criticized for choosing white artists, particularly in major categories like Album of the Year or Song of the Year, over black artists who popular and critical consensus deem more deserving. Most notably, in 2014, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid, MAAD City’ lost Best Rap Album to Macklemore’s ‘The Heist’ – and, again in 2016, Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ won the No. album of the year against Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”. ” It’s impossible to know exactly what made those albums win, but that’s precisely the point and why music fans were angry that Kendrick Lamar lost both times. We should have a better idea why an artist who produced three widely acclaimed albums in a row has never been able to win album of the year.

Additionally, the Grammys routinely group black gender artists into rap and R&B-only categories while excluding them from more prestigious categories like Album of the Year and Song of the Year. All of these controversies suggest that racism infects the Recording Academy and the music industry in general. Despite the massive impact that black artists have had on music, culture, and society, they are nonetheless lumped into restrictive categories where they are overlooked, minimized, and forgotten.

While this exclusion of black artists exists in all aspects of music and popular culture, the Grammy Awards are the primary manifestation of it. Whether deliberate or not, rewarding one artist over another makes a statement, implying that the mostly white artists who receive nominations or awards are more worthwhile and deserving of acclaim than the many non whites who don’t. Giving prestige to artists in such a biased, exclusive, and racist way as the Grammys only makes the music industry less inclusive.

Even in defiance of prejudice and racism within the Recording Academy, the Grammys and other prestigious music awards are nonetheless based on a flawed model that stratifies the music industry and attributes value and prestige to certain musicians and pieces of music. compared to others. When an event as prestigious as the Grammys uses confusing and elite methods to try to determine the value of new music, it effectively obscures what music should fundamentally be: an authentic, expressive, and fluid art form. Awards shows like the Grammys thus shift the focus away from creating and listening to music that people love and identify with. Within the entertainment industry plagued by elitism, we should try to make the music industry look more like a diverse group of genuine artists rather than an interconnected elite group of artists. wealthy individuals. For that, we must stop assigning a value to the Grammy Awards.

Melissa Liu ’25 can be reached at melissa_y_liu@brown.edu. Please send responses to this notice to letters@browndailyherald.com and editorials to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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