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Inside Beat

Why acknowledging Black artists at Grammy Awards matters

Despite his album, "After Hours," going multi-platinum this year, The Weeknd shockingly received zero nominations for the 2020 Grammys, upsetting both fans and the artist, who later claimed on Twitter that the award show was "corrupt." – Photo by the weeknd / twitter

The annual Grammy Awards nominations are ideally supposed to reflect the dynamism of the current musical landscape and evolve to reflect the tastes of the industry. After all, the Grammy Awards is meant to showcase the best musicians in America, and winning one certifies an important moment in an artist’s career.

The significance placed on the Grammy Awards means that the lack of nominations for certain artists naturally stirs up controversy and discussion. This year’s nominations featured some important additions and shutouts.

The Weeknd, whose album, "After Hours," topped critics’ year-end lists and includes the multi-platinum single, “Blinding Lights,” received zero nominations to the shock of fans and musicians alike. His status as a bonafide superstar makes this lack of recognition from the Grammys both surprising and hurtful for him and his fans.

In fact, the artist called out the Grammys on Twitter for being “corrupt” and demanded more transparency in the nomination process. 

The shutout of artists like the Weeknd makes the nominations of others even more surprising. Justin Bieber, who received four nominations, complained about how he was put into the pop category when he felt like his album, "Changes," is more of a rhythm and blues (R&B) album.

His complaints seem spoiled when looking at other artists' situations, like the Weeknd's, and the fact that his song, "Yummy," is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance is questionable at best. Not only is this a sign of a lack of gratitude on Bieber's part, but it also shows that the Grammys committee is not as established as the name might suggest.

But, Black artists being dismissed at the Grammys is nothing new, as history has shown us that they are notorious for it. Macklemore’s 2012 Grammy win for Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar is one of the most glaring examples, but other moments include Adele‘s "25" beating Beyoncé’s "Lemonade" for Album of the Year in 2017.

It seems as though the Grammys can't have a year without upsetting people, but time and time again, they fail to acknowledge Black artists in the way they deserve to be.

While people tend to bring up the argument that the Grammys "don't matter," it definitely matters to the artists who are nominated for them. Aminé's Instagram video of him screaming with joy after his song, "My High," featuring Disclosure, was nominated for Best Dance Recording is a wonderful display of how much it means for artists to be recognized for their work.

Similarly, Kaytranada’s three nominations lead to him posting his nominations on his Instagram and stating that it was "surreal."

Evidently, the Grammys matter to the artists and their craft, so as fans, we should take shutouts and nominations seriously.

While the Grammys haven't proven to be explicitly racist, nominations have proven to be biased, rather than being based on artistry alone. Record labels tend to push certain albums to be nominated before the process even begins, and a foot in the industry is required to get this type of special treatment. Signed artists are much more likely to be nominated, and while possible, the chances of an independent artist winning a Grammy are comparatively slim.

That being said, a pleasant surprise for this year's Grammy nominations include Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s "Alfredo" being nominated for Best Rap Album. Gibbs’ is an independent artist who maintains a unique image despite the industry pressure to conform, so this is both an important recognition and a powerful moment in his career. Aside from Gibbs' Instagram being hilarious, he's one of the funniest and most genuine voices in rap today. 

While the Grammy Awards will undoubtedly continue to upset the public, they're still important to the artists whose works are nominated and an important staple of the music industry. The Grammys' reputation and symbolism are ingrained in American culture, and the musicians who win add them as a trophy and recognition for the hard work they put into their artistry.

There will be more shocking shoutouts in the future, and only time will tell if the Grammys will change to stay relevant to the artists they represent.

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