Racism in Grammy Awards

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The Gramophone Grammy-award silhouette.jpg
The Gramophone

Alleged racism in the Grammy Awards , as expressed in award selections, has repeatedly been the target of criticism. These accusations have been highlighted by several controversial voting results, and the controversial voting process itself.

Contents

Background

The Grammy Award, as presented by the Recording Academy, is an award that recognizes achievement within all facets of the music industry. It covers all major genres and recognizes performances of albums and songs, songwriting, and new artists. Criticism of the Grammys has covered various aspects, with accusations of racism having been brought up for decades.

History of snubs and controversy

Since the inception of the Grammys in 1957, ten black artists have won the Album of the Year Award. From 1990-2006, 8 of the winners and 26 nominees were non-white including 6 black winners. From 2007-2017, there were 17 non-white artists nominated for Album of the Year, with the only winner being Herbie Hancock in 2008, whose album was a collection of Joni Mitchell folk covers. In 2018 and 2019, 9 of the 13 nominees were non-white including 8 black nominees. [1]

Herbert Jeffrey Hancock is an American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer and actor. Hancock started his career with Donald Byrd. He shortly thereafter joined the Miles Davis Quintet, where he helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section and was one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound. In the 1970s, Hancock experimented with jazz fusion, funk, and electro styles.

Joni Mitchell Canadian musician

Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell, is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy. She has received many accolades, including nine Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Rolling Stone called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever", and AllMusic has stated, "When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century".

There have been several best album wins that have been questioned including Beyonce's loss in 2015 to Beck for Album of the Year and her subsequent 2017 Album of the Year loss to Adele. Other cited examples, include Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Prince's 1999 failing to be nominated, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange losing to Mumford and Sons, Kendrick Lamar losing Album of the Year and Best Hip Hop Album to Daft Punk and Macklemore in 2014 and his defeat to Taylor Swift in 2016. [1]

Others have argued that non-white artists mostly win in smaller "racialized" categories. Beyonce has 18 of her 22 within categories, such as rap and R&B, and only one of win in a major category. [2] Anne Powers writing for the NPR accused the 2017 Grammys of systematic racism because Chance the Rapper and Beyonce were the only black artists who won televised awards. According to her there is a general notion that music made with “real” instrumentation is superior to synth or sampled music, or that “stand-still” performances are superior to performances that incorporate dance. [3]

NPR non-profit membership media organization

National Public Radio is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization based in Washington, D.C. NPR differs from other non-profit membership media organizations, such as AP, in that it was established by an act of Congress and most of its member stations are owned by government entities. It serves as a national syndicator to a network of over 1,000 public radio stations in the United States.

Beyonce Knowles Beyonce Dreamgirls cropped.jpg
Beyonce Knowles

Controversial voting process

The voting process for the Grammy Awards is a particular process that has endured lots of criticism over the years. The voting committees are made up of 10,000 musicians, producers, engineers, songwriters, and essentially any professional in the music industry who qualifies based on the requirements. There is a yearly fee, but after that any voting member is qualified to make nominations and vote on several different categories. Controversy has been raised over the fact that members vote for works in categories outside of their expertise, and this occurs because they are required to vote on a certain number of categories to maintain membership. Rob Kenner, a Grammy screener, described an “unwritten rule” while conversing with committee members in which you must be cautious nominating an album by an already well-known artist if you do not want that album to eventually win an award because other voting members will mindlessly select a famous artist's album because they recognize the name, even if they have never heard any of that music before. [4]

Another controversial aspect of the voting process regards a secret committee formed for the purpose of reviewing votes and nominations and making adjustments when needed. The members of this electoral college are kept a secret, and the committee is not acknowledged in public, not even on the Grammy website. According to an anonymous member of this committee, the entire Grammy voting committee votes on the nominees, but the secret committee receives the top 20 selections and narrows them down to just five nominees. This secret committee meets annually, and their names are kept secret in order to avoid lobbying. [5]

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Grammy Award accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States

A Grammy Award, or Grammy, is an award presented by The Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. The Grammys are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually.

The Grammy Award for Song of the Year is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards. The Song of the Year award is one of the four most prestigious categories at the awards presented annually since the 1st Grammy Awards in 1959. According to the 54th Grammy Awards description guide, the award is presented:

to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.

The Grammy Award for Record of the Year is presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to sales or chart position." The Record of the Year award is one of the four most prestigious categories at the awards presented annually since the 1st Grammy Awards in 1959. According to the 54th Grammy Awards description guide, the award is presented:

for commercially released singles or tracks of new vocal or instrumental recordings. Tracks from a previous year's album may be entered provided the track was not entered the previous year and provided the album did not win a Grammy. Award to the artist(s), producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) if other than the artist.

The Grammy Award for Album of the Year is presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception." Album of the Year is the most prestigious award category at the Grammys having been presented since 1st Grammy Awards in 1959. According to the 54th Grammy Awards description guide, the award is presented:

For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental recordings. Award to the artist(s), and to the album producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s), and mastering engineer(s) if other than the artist.

The Grammy Award for Best New Artist has been awarded since 1959. Years reflect the year in which the Grammy Awards were handed out, for records released in the previous year. The award was not presented in 1967. The official guidelines are as follows: "For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist." Note that this is not necessarily the first album released by an artist.

The Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album is an award presented to recording artists for quality albums in the alternative genre at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

American Music Awards annual American music awards show

The American Music Awards (AMAs) is an annual American music awards show, generally held in the Fall, created by Dick Clark in 1973 for ABC when the network's contract to air the Grammy Awards expired. It is the first of the Big Three music award shows held annually. Unlike the Grammys, which are awarded on the basis of votes by members of the Recording Academy, the AMAs are determined by a poll of the public and fans, who can vote through the AMAs website. The award statuette is manufactured by New York firm Society Awards.

The NAACP Image Award is an annual awards ceremony presented by the U.S.-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to honor outstanding performances in film, television, music, and literature. Similar to other awards, like the Oscars and the Grammys, the over 40 categories of the Image Awards are voted on by the award organization's members. Honorary awards have also been included, such as the President's Award, the Chairman's Award, the Entertainer of the Year, and the Hall of Fame Award.

The Grammy Award for Best Polka Album was an award presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for quality polka albums. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

The Grammy Award for Best R&B Album is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for quality works on albums in the R&B music genre. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by The Recording Academy of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

The Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album was an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for quality works on albums in the contemporary R&B music genre. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

The Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Performance is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for quality songs on which rappers and singers collaborate. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

The Aurora Awards are a set of primarily literary awards given annually for the best Canadian science fiction or fantasy professional and fan works and achievements from the previous year. The event is organized by Canvention and the awards are given out by the Canadian SF and Fantasy Association and SFSF Boreal Inc. Originally they were known as the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards which was shortened to CSFFA and nicknamed the Casper Awards based on that acronym, but this name was changed to the Aurora Awards in 1991, because the Aurora is the same in English and French. The categories have expanded from those focused on literary works to include categories that recognize achievements in comics, music, poetry, art, film and television.

Latin Grammy Award accolade by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences of the United States

A Latin Grammy Award is an award by The Latin Recording Academy to recognize outstanding achievement in the Latin music industry. The Latin Grammy honors works produced anywhere around the world that were recorded in either Spanish or Portuguese and is awarded in the United States. Submissions of products recorded in regional languages from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula of Hispanophone or Lusophone countries such as Catalan, Guarani, Quechua may also be considered. Both the regular Grammy Award and the Latin Grammy Award have similar nominating and voting processes, in which the selections are decided by peers within the Latin music industry.

The Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for quality works on albums in the urban contemporary subgenre within the R&B field. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

References

  1. 1 2 III, Ira Madison (28 January 2018). "The Grammy Awards Are Racist as Hell" via www.thedailybeast.com.
  2. Vilanova, John. "Beyoncé's Grammy snub and the glass ceiling on black art". latimes.com.
  3. "The Problem With The Grammys Is Not A Problem We Can Fix".
  4. "The Grammy voting process is completely ridiculous".
  5. HILBURN, ROBERT (21 February 1999). "Behind Grammy's Closed Door" via LA Times.