The Problem with the Grammy’s: 2019 Recap


On February 10th, the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards took place in Los Angeles. Many familiar faces flooded the red carpet with their outlandish outfits and assembled in the Staples Center for the Alicia Keys hosted night. With 4 hip-hop/rap albums nominated for Album of the Year (Invasion of Privacy, Scorpion, Beerbongs and Bentleys, Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By), the night was looking very promising for the genre. However, this didn't stop the ever-increasing trend of nominated artists deciding to not attend the event.

Kendrick Lamar, who led the Grammy's with 8 nominations this year and who is coming off of 20 nominations at the awards in the last three years, decided to take the night off. Joining him were superstars Childish Gambino (tied for most wins of the night with 4), Beyoncé, Jay-Z, J. Cole, and even Ariana Grande (Best Pop Vocal Album winner) who was reported to have got into a dispute with the producer of the show a week prior.

This has been a rising issue for the Grammy's as these are some of the biggest names in music today declining opportunities to attend and perform at the biggest music award show there is. Growing concern about the legitimacy and relevancy of the awards has changed the way not only artists view the show, but how the public view it as well. While most people can agree that the committee has improved slightly with their nomination selection and more importantly award selection, there is still a concern about who is really in charge of this process and if they can be trusted to review music that they don't regularly listen to or have knowledge of the culture surrounding it. At the end of the day the Grammy's are and will always be a popularity concert to some degree, so this has come to be expected throughout the years.

Childish Gambino - This Is America

Despite not being in attendance, Donald Glover, otherwise known as Childish Gambino earned himself 4 Grammy's (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, Best Music Video) for This is America. Gambino's song and music video sent the internet into a frenzy back in May of last year with its bold visuals and controversial subject matter. Topics including racial discrimination and gun violence in the U.S. are addressed throughout This is America. The song features background vocals from rappers Quavo, 21 Savage, Slim Jxmmi, Blockboy JB, and Young Thug, who earned his first Grammy for his songwriting contribution to the track. The video, directed by Gambino's good friend Hiro Murai has earned over 500 million views on YouTube and is one of Glover's most successful pieces of work throughout his illustrious career.

Accompanying no-shows Beyoncé and Jay-Z received a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album with their collaborative album Everything is Love. The Grammy for Best Rap Performance was shared by several artists after a rare tie between Anderson Paak's Bubblin and Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, & James Blake's King's Dead off of the Black Panther soundtrack. This was the first Grammy win for all the artists except Lamar. Drake earned his 4th Grammy as well for Best Rap Song (God's Plan). In his acceptance speech, Drake took the time to address several of his (and many others') issues with the Grammy's and award shows in general.

This is a business where sometimes... it’s up to a bunch of people who might not understand... what a mixed raced kid from Canada has to say, or a fly young Spanish girl from New York... or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis”

“You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown... if there’s people who have regular jobs, who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this [Grammy] right here
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Chromin Gold for the 6

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The award for Best Rap Album made history on Grammy night after Cardi B became the first female solo artist to win the award, with her debut album Invasion of Privacy. The album beat out Travis Scott's Astroworld, Pusha T's Daytona, Nipsey Hussle's Victory Lap, and the late Mac Miller's Swimming. The win did not come without it's fair share of controversy as many believed the album did not deserve the award despite it's critical acclaim and success. Invasion of Privacy was also nominated for Album of the Year, however, lost to Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour. Nevertheless, the win marked a huge moment in hip-hop history and proved that change is truly possible. Several other artists chimed in and congratulated Cardi on the achievement.

While the Grammy's might never be perfect, they do serve as a huge platform to not only celebrate music, but for artists to speak on issues and empower audiences, whether it be through a performance or an acceptance speech. Despite the decrease in attendance among artists, much of the debate around the reasons for these absences have sparked conversation about how to create a better Grammy system and overall environment. There will always be snubs and this means that the best might not always win, but it also doesn't necessarily mean that the music being nominated or that wins is any less deserving. At the end of the day, we want our favourite artists to win, we want good music to be recognized, but just because this doesn't happen, doesn't mean you have to enjoy the music any less than before.