Grammys 2020: Biggest night in music continues to overlook deserving artists

Illustration by Jeffrey Black

Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor

The night of the Grammys is indisputably the biggest night in music. For musicians, it means potentially adding to their vast collections of gold trophies or coming out of the long show with their first award. 

However, for music fans, it’s just another year of the Recording Academy neglecting to acknowledge the artists that deserve the golden gramophone.

Hosted for the second year in a row by Alicia Keys, the 62nd Annual Grammys on Sunday brought many expected upsets rather than shocks.

Although I love sitting in front of my TV and watching the Grammys for 3 1/2 hours every year, I can’t help but end the show each time feeling disappointed for the deserving artists that were overlooked. 

A few great takeaways from the night include long-awaited first award wins from Tyler, The Creator in the best rap album category for “Igor” and J. Cole for his feature on “A Lot” with 21 Savage. 

These specific award wins restore some hope in the Recording Academy’s decisions but don’t earn forgiveness from me or any of the artists nominated. 

“It sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending … they always put us in a rap or urban category,” said Tyler, the Creator in a backstage interview at the Grammys. “And I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”

Tyler, The Creator’s words reinforce the long-standing battle between the Recording Academy and questions of racial and gender biases reflected by a lack of diversity in nominees and winners.

“Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment, but another half of me is very grateful that the art that I made could be acknowledged on a level like this,” Tyler, The Creator said.

Billie Eilish broke the record for the youngest person ever to take home awards in the four major categories of best new artist, record of the year, song of the year and album of the year. Eilish won five awards including best pop vocal performance at just 18 years old. 

“Although I love sitting in front of my TV and watching the Grammys for 3 1/2 hours every year, I can’t help but end the show each time feeling disappointed for the deserving artists that were overlooked.” —Iman Mekonen

Eilish is very much deserving of awards, but to win in categories against critically acclaimed artists of color, such as Lizzo and Lil Nas X, allows the question of biases among the Recording Academy to return.

To be fair, there isn’t a realistic outcome of winners in any category that will satisfy all audiences. But I would still like to see some people of color win in the biggest categories.

Although the Recording Academy is supposedly made up of music professionals, I can’t trust that they will properly recognize both music and musicians — especially women and people of color. 

As mentioned in an article by the Daily Beast, only 10 black artists have won album of the year since the Grammys were established in 1959.

The Recording Academy has expressed its intentions to diversify the awards in the past; they launched the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in March of 2018. But if this year was any reflection of the Academy’s attempted efforts to diversify its nominees and winners, I don’t know what to say. 

Every year it seems like the awards show is pushing out the important awards to the off-air awards, which take place a few hours before the show.

Before the main show aired, Anderson .Paak won two Grammys for best R&B album for “Ventura” and best R&B performance for “Come Home” along with Lizzo, who won best traditional R&B performance for “Jerome” and best urban contemporary album for “Cuz I Love You.” 

It makes me wonder why these important categories, called “urban” seemingly to imply that they include black artists, weren’t deemed important enough for the main show. None of the five Latin music categories were shown on TV either. 

I hope to see some improvement in the diversity of the nominees and winners chosen by the Recording Academy in the upcoming future — it’s long overdue.

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