‘Tell the Grammy’s fuck that 0 for 8 shit,” Jay-Z raps in APESHIT, one of the tracks from his collaborative album with Beyoncé “Everything is Love” referring to his snubs for “4:44” in last year’s Grammy Awards. This would not be the first time a titan in the music industry would display fierce dispassion for the Grammys, one that resembles that of many fans who have had to watch their faves get slighted year after year. Faves like J Cole, Frank Ocean and most recently Janelle Monáe. The Grammy’s image as a beacon of musical success is steadily waning.
Last year the campaign #GrammySoMale ensued following the president of the Recording Academy’s reckless comments on gender representation. When asked about the overwhelming amount of male winners, Neil Portnow responded that women in the music industry needed to “step up” if they wanted more recognition. In that same year we also saw Drake boycotting the award show for reasons previously expressed by numerous artists; one of which is the Academy’s notorious habit of forcing versatile artists into boxes and inadvertently never nominating them for other categories.
In many ways this year was the Grammy’s chance to redeem themselves and in a few ways they did. We witnessed outstanding performances by women in industry. Alicia Keys effortlessly switching from one piano to another as she performed a mash-up of 2018 hit singles. Cardi B who brought her hit song Money to life with a broadway-esque routine. H.E.R, who consistently centers her craftsmanship on stage, and Janelle Monáe with a faultless medley of Dirty Computer.
We also saw a far more diverse list of nominees and winners this year. For me, the categories Album of the Year and Best Rap Album reveal three things. Firstly that we admire and respect the way Bronx rapper, Cardi B has cemented her name in the hip-hop industry. Secondly, that the yee-haw agenda is stronger than ever and is gracefully (and rightfully) represented by Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour. But most significantly, that we may finally begin to get an impression of a shift in the Recording Academy’s taste.
But in many crucial ways, The Grammy’s missed the mark making us wonder whether the amendments were genuine or simply a reactionary way of safeguarding their reputation and ratings. The bizarre decision to ask J-Lo to perform a Motown tribute was only surpassed by her even more bizarre Vegas inspired outfit and random salsa segment at the end of her set. It felt like a gimmicky attempt at luring in black viewers.
Not to mention, awarding Record Of The Year to Childish Gambino’s This is America, which was not nearly the best of the contenders in the category. Its about time that we admit that it was a criminally mediocre track, and the backing it got from the Academy has more to do with their obsession of black trauma than the song’s actual merit.
In his acceptance speech for Best Rap Song God’s Plan Drake spoke to his counterparts, “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your home town. You don’t need this right here. I promise you. You already won.” Not only are his words comforting to those in the music industry who feel like they have been wronged by the Recording Academy, they also illustrate a growing sentiment among music fans. I don’t believe any of us needed a Grammy to remind us why we love the artist we love, but now more than ever, we certainly care less what the institution has to say.