Some things wrong with the Grammys: I can’t list them all

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(Martha Asencio Rhine/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

The Weeknd performs in front of fans during the halftime show for Super Bowl LV on Sunday, February 7, 2021 in in Tampa, Florida. He has been a prominent, outspoken critic of the Grammys in recent months.

Vish Gondesi, Online Editor-in-Chief

Even though Kanye publicly urinated on one of his Grammys in the past, he still won one for his album “Jesus is King” in the category Contemporary Christian Music. It might be vulgar, but it’s a fitting way to describe the current direction of the show.

I’ve never really cared for the Grammys. Watching award shows has never been a preference of mine- and for an event which is supposed to highlight the pinnacle of music achievement, I’ve heard way too much backlash about it to actually tune in. But even from my outside viewpoint it’s inherently flawed: the Grammys may have all the glitz and glamor but they don’t have common sense. 

Just take the selection of Macklemore winning ‘Best Rap Album’ in the same year in which Kendrick Lamar produced “good kid M.A.A.D city”- which went a RIAA thee times platinum compared to Macklemore’s one times platinum, or even this year when H.E.R’s “I can’t breathe” beat out Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” in spite of having about 333.5 million less views on Youtube. Sure stats aren’t the major factor of these awards, but Macklemore even apologized to Lamar for getting the Grammy, providing evidence that sometimes the Grammys makes flat-out wrong decisions.

And when I heard that the Weeknd didn’t receive a single nomination for this year, I began to think the Grammys lack of musical taste had repeated itself once again.  

The Weeknd’s single “Blinding Lights” was arguably in contention for song and record of the year, and even set the record for most weeks in the top 10 of the Hot 100 spending over a year in this position. Furthermore, his album “After Hours” peaked at number one on Billboard’s charts on April 4, along with setting its own share of records.

Should the Weeknd have been nominated for a Grammy in 2021?

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In light of the events, the Weeknd said that the Grammys were “corrupt,” and that he would no longer be allowing his record label to submit his songs for voting. His voice joins the many others who have expressed discontent with the event, recent examples of which being Halsey alluding to voter corruption and Justin Bieber wondering why his album was placed in the pop category instead of what he intended to be R&B. At this point the number of artists who lambasted the event are countless, and a select few like the Weeknd have just cut all ties in general. 

Reading the complaints, the most prominent issue seems to be the process- while it’s revealed for everyone to analyze it somehow still lacks clarity. To start, submissions are screened by a variety of anonymous experts (350 in total) in their respective musical fields, who check their eligibility and proper category- without making any technical judgements. 

After seeing this I would expect that they could place Justin Bieber’s album in the right category, but apparently not.

Next, the nomination ballots are sent out to Grammy voting members. To become a voting member for some reason it entails a $100 fee, in addition to a notable degree of success in the music industry. Yet at the end of the day the voting members remain anonymous. 

To add to this, former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan alleged that the Grammys were “rigged,” and hinted at the presence of secret committees influencing the results of the nominating process. In her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, which is 44 pages long, Dugan covered instances of discrimination, workplace retaliation and sexual harassment.

Regardless of their validity, the impact of Dugan’s claims were colossal- as it displayed that the Grammys had significant internal conflicts as well as its various external ones- making it very difficult for me to believe the Grammys statements that everything she said was untrue. 

As a result of the backlash, on May 1, 2021 the Grammys announced structural changes that would be made to the voting process. They discarded the secret voting committees, reduced the 15-category limit for voters to 10-category and claimed 90 percent of its voting members would engage in a “requalification process” to confirm that all members are “actively engaged in music creation.”

This may have quelled some complaints: nevertheless, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

The persistence of race and social issues as Dugan alluded to are a completely separate topic, and there are other complications such as viewership, show logistics and the recording academy’s questionable decision making which need to be re-examined and fixed. 

Although the behind the scenes aspects are downright terrible, the actual show isn’t that bad. This year the Grammys definitely allowed for some colorful in-person performances such as Megan the Stallion’s gleaming yellows in performing “Savage”, Lil Baby’s chillingly dark colors in his recital of “The Bigger Picture” and Dua Lipa’s flashing pinks while singing “Levitating”. Seeing the charisma of performers on stage definitely exceeded the alternative of a watered-down virtual version. 

While the issues are extreme and long-term, more tangible changes should be implemented soon.

Listen to the artists, keep experimenting with the process and find the right balance between being transparent and impartial. Once that is done hopefully there are more artists who view a Grammy as an honor and something that truly commemorates their career- rather than a bathroom.