2016 is drawing to close, which means not only are half-hearted New Years resolutions upon us but so is Awards Season. The Grammy Awards, which just released the list of nominees for their 59th awards season, are undeniably the largest form of recognition in the music industry. Unfortunately for Music's Biggest Night, many members of the music community do not respect the institution because of it's white washed tendencies.
If you haven't so much as glanced through the nominations ever in the history of the awards show, you may have missed this unwritten rule of the Grammy Awards that black artists are generally only nominated for the R& ,,B and Rap music categories, while the other 38 categories are populated with white artists. A few artists, such as Beyoncé, are the exception to this rule, but many incredible artists and records are overlooked for Album of the Year or Best Pop Vocal Performance, while mediocre white musicians are continuously praised for their work.
Countless times throughout the awards' history, a talented artist who was a person of color has won the nomination but lost the gold statue in the shadow of a white artist. Take for example 2016's upset for Song of the Year when Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" won over Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" - a racially and politically charged song that is outstanding in its production and performance was glossed over for your run-of-the-mill uninspired singer-songwriter pop love song. "Thinking Out Loud" has a very sparse and unimagined arrangement, cheesy lyrics, and has very simple production techniques used on it. "Alright", converse,h as an unconventional arrangement that utilizes brass instruments and vocal pads to drive the song forward. Additionally, Kendrick is speaking out about the oppression of black citizens by police officers. Ed Sheeran most likely won because of the color of his skin; there is no denying in this scenario that Kendrick had written the superior song.
In that same season, Best Music Video nominations included A$AP Rocky for "L$D", Kendrick Lamar for "Alright", and Pharrell Williams for "Freedom". Shockingly, the award was given to the white pop star on the list, Taylor Swift for "Bad Blood". Have you seen the video? Let's watch it real quick:
Now, let's look at the video for "Alright":
Why is this even a discussion? The video for "Bad Blood" is Taylor showing off her roster of A-list friends - exhibiting white feminism at its finest - and the concept itself is safe, boring, and poorly pieced together. Kendrick's video is thought provoking, artful, and serves as a piece of social commentary. Racism in America won yet again, failing to recognize the incredible accomplishments of a musical genius in favor of a walking Barbie doll.
The 59th Grammy Awards has the opportunity to take a stand against the white patriarchal institution and support the diversity that truly comprises the recording industry. Beyoncé is up for nine award nominations, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. The body of work being recognized is the visual album Lemonade, which is arguably her strongest work to date, and an album largely reflecting themes many pop songs do not address in regards to marriage troubles, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement and feminist ideals. Nominated against her in many of these categories is Adele, a white English artist who sings mostly sad love songs. Can you see where I'm going with this?
Additionally, it's interesting to see that the Grammy Awards deemed it appropriate to nominate Beyoncé and Jack White for "Don't Hurt Yourself" for Best Rock Performance, but "Daddy Lessons", also from Lemonade, was snubbed for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. "Daddy Lessons" got a nod from the Country Music Association Awards earlier this year, While not nominated, Beyoncé was invited to perform the song during the awards show with Dixie Chicks (which received an uproar in social media backlash because the predominantly white audience did not appreciate Beyonce's association with the Black Lives Matter movement).
There's no argument here, it's a country song - but because the recording artist in question is not a traditional (erm, white) artist who only sings about guns and getting drunk and their pickup truck, no one wants to acknowledge the piece for what it is. Country singer Dierks Bentley was quoted in Billboard vaguely supporting the piece:
“There is just something intangible about it that it feels like a country song, It’s not just choruses that are catchy and verses that could be intermixed anywhere as some pop songs are. It’s a real story that she tells about what’s going on in her life growing up.”
However, this song's defining qualities are not intangible. Everything about the chord progression, arrangement, content, and performance of "Daddy Lessons" make this track a country song. Critics and audiences should be celebrating the crossover work, but instea, they're pushing it under the rug because it was released by a black pop star.
Beyoncé's potential awards sweep would speak volumes to the worth of women of color in this industry, and frankly the country at large. If she loses to Adele or Justin Bieber, who is also nominated against her in a handful of these categories, the Recording Academy will be showing us that they have not heard anything the community has been saying for years.
The Recording Academy needs to stop rewarding mediocre white men for their mediocre work, stop telling black musicians that they can't be considered for awards outside of the two categories they've been boxed into, and stop perpetuating the white supremacy that is ruling the industry.
All entertainment awards going into early 2017 are going to be important, because not only have they fallen under criticism in recent years for the lack of diversity, but additionally because the country has fallen under the authority of a Fascist White Supremacist. If the Grammy Awards uphold the racist history they've built their foundation on, it will only further normalize and reinforce the terrifying political climate we are barreling into head first.