Grammys Reward White Mediocrity

Grammys Reward White Mediocrity

Yeah, I’m Making This A Race Thing,

‘Cause How Do You Not At This Point?


A few hours ago, Adele took home the Grammy for Album of the Year for 25, beating out Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Last year, Taylor Swift’s 1989 won over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The year before that, Beck’s Morning Phase won over another Beyoncé record, her self-titled LP. Dragging this back to the year 2000, over the past 17 ceremonies there have been four wins by minorities for Album of the Year: Santana’s  Supernatural (2000),  OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2004), Ray Charles’s Genius in Love (2005) and Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters (2008).

To the Grammy voters, love K-Dot. (Uncredited)

If I were looking to elicit even more of a head-shake and dubious murmur of “What the fuck?” from people I know share my personal taste in music, I would also point out that Kanye West (dickhead that he is, notwithstanding) has never won a Grammy for Album of the Year. I would mention that Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE lost to a fucking Mumford & Sons record that their parents didn’t even listen to, and that he’s so over the entire notion of the Grammys that he refused to submit Blonde for consideration (it wouldn’t have won, either, and I’m sure he knew that). But, honestly, turning this into an indignant, butthurt rant because my team lost defeats the point I’m trying to get at, and I’m sorry I even let it get this far in the first place.

So, setting aside all pretense to musical snobbery and elitism, we need to take a look at the pattern that has clearly formed here. There’s no escaping it: the Grammys do not reward black artists to the same degree they do their white counterparts, at least not when it comes to their highest award. And yeah, you can point to the Grammys’ much more diverse collection of winners from from the 20th century, when Stevie Wonder won three times (a record he shares with Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon) and others like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie and Natalie Cole received the top honour. You could argue that celebrating those wins simply for the fact that they went to a black person is counter-productive, especially when the albums themselves (Natalie Cole? Really?) are kinda weak. Or you could call up the other categories where black artists flourish, like Best Rap Album, even though that still goes to a white dude literally half the time.

This dude won six times. SIX! Does he even have that many albums? (Getty Images)

Or perhaps some might argue that it’s a populist issue, not a race one. That my quarrel should be with those who value less bold, sustainable music over more immediately gratifying tunes. That’s not a bad point, especially when you factor in that the music we enjoy is always down to subjectivism and the Grammys are just that ideal pushed to its logical conclusion, a wide-spreading democratic selection of what gets us going personally as opposed to what we hold in esteem as most important. Even so, I reject that premise based purely on the fact that you can’t swing a fucking banjo these days without hitting upon a dozen stellar LPs each year by a black artist. This is kinda their field now, y’know, if it hasn’t basically always been. I mean, how many times can the white kid in your basketball team get MVP before someone arcs up?

Look, the Grammys are honestly the least of this shit and there’s no doubt that this could definitely stand to be a much larger conversation, beyond the confines of musical artistry, cinema, television, literature and politics. On a humanistic level, this discussion needs to be had, these issues addressed and rightfully amended, to the inclusivity of all races and not just black people. There are those, I’m sure, who believe I’m making too much of this, reading into something trivial as an example of blatant prejudice just to shame people, something leftists are often (and sometimes rightly) accused of. But, whatever this comes down to, it’s largely an issue centred around America. It’s an award that recognises the best music often from a country with a checkered history towards African-Americans, both in the treatment of them as people and the appropriation of their songs for its own gain. This isn’t nothing, and I don’t think we should let Ed Sheeran win for the next twenty years before we decide that.

IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?! IS IT??!! (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

(Author’s Note: I am aware that Adele agrees with me that Beyoncé should have won. Good for her.)

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