The Ever-Controversial Grammys

2021 marks another year of questioning the relevance of the Grammy Awards.

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Margaux Reyl

Taylor Swift’s Grammy- winning album is loved by many. Kate Reynolds ’21 said, “’Folklore’ is my favorite Taylor Swift album.”

When Trevor Noah hosted the 63rd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on March 14th, 2021, he presided not only over the glamorous show but over various controversies, old and new. Artists who performed included Dua Lipa, Roddy Ricch,Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Black Pumas, Cardi B, BTS, Brandi Carlile, DaBaby, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Mickey Guyton, Haim, Brittany Howard, Miranda Lambert, Lil Baby, Chris Martin, John Mayer, Megan Thee Stallion, Maren Morris, Post Malone, and Harry Styles. 

This year’s Grammys did not go off without a hitch, however. In fact, weeks before the event, the show was once again caught up in controversy. The Weeknd’s most recent album, After Hours, received zero nominations this year, which was unexpected — it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. After nominations were released, he announced that he would be boycotting both the show and the institution. “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys,” he told The New York Times. Other notable artists, such as Zayn Malik and Nicki Minaj, have made similar claims via Twitter denouncing the award show for supposed secret meetings, racism, and bribery. 

Harvey Mason, Jr., the interim president of the Recording Academy said, “We certainly won’t be able to make everyone happy.” This is true. Not everyone can be nominated, and not everyone can win. Take BTS, a superstar K-pop group that has been breaking records left and right since its debut in 2013. BTS was the first K-pop group to be invited to the award show and nominated for a Grammy. Its fans were disappointed at Sunday night’s Grammy show, when the award for best pop duo/group performance ended up going to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande for their song “Rain on Me.” BTS, the best selling artists of the year, their fans argue they are the most deserving. So what does it mean for the academy when artists or their fans claim they have been snubbed? 

The Recording Academy is an American academy of musicians, producers, recording engineers, and other musical professionals. It is famous for its Grammy Awards, which recognize achievements in the music industry. The Recording Academy is an imperfect institution that struggles with issues of relevance, inclusivity, and transparency. 

As shows like the Grammys start to lose relevance, we should ask ourselves who needs who. The big stars will succeed regardless of a nomination or a win, and the Grammys will continue to generate views even without some of the most popular artists.

One artist who has consistently been recognized by the Recording Academy is Taylor Swift. She won Album Of The Year for her album Folklore, marking her 11th career Grammy win and third Album Of The Year win. She won her second and third Grammy in 2010 with her album Fearless. The masters of this album, released in 2008, is owned by music manager Scooter Braun. Taylor Swift recently re-recorded it in hopes of making a statement. “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons,” she wrote in a March 2021 Instagram post. “But the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.” Her re-recorded album has already reached greater heights than her original release. As she has become a powerhouse in the music industry, with help from institutions like the Academy who recognize her artistry, she is in a position to have complete control over her musical process, something she could not have when she was younger.

Her album win at this year’s Grammys was historic for Swift as she finally owned the master recordings to the music being recognized. The Grammys are controversial and may be fading in relevance, but for the artists recognized, a win can be very meaningful and can confer power over one’s career. The Grammys can be both a way to mark achievement as well as to exclude it. Like music itself, the Grammys will have to evolve constantly in order to remain relevant.

As shows like the Grammys start to lose relevance, we should ask ourselves who needs who. The big stars will succeed regardless of a nomination or a win, and the Grammys will continue to generate views even without some of the most popular artists.

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