Grammys get it wrong again

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Grammys get it wrong again

Photo courtesy of billboard.com

Photo courtesy of billboard.com

Photo courtesy of billboard.com

Kimberly Stelly, kstelly@lmcexperience.com

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The music industry has always catered to white audiences over culturally relevant art. One of the most notable examples of this came about when the Grammys Ceremony aired last Saturday and graced us with criminally unsatisfying results once again, particularly in the categories in which hip-hop or R&B were involved.

Perhaps one of the greatest offenses of the night was Drake winning Rap Song of the year for “Hotline Bling.” Not only were there songs superior in lyrical content and production, but the song isn’t even remotely related to the genre or category it was nominated for. Drake himself agreed, saying in an interview on the Apple Beats 1 radio show “I’m apparently a rapper, even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song.”

It’s no surprise the track got as much acclaim as it did though, considering Drake makes the type of hip-hop that can be understood by white people, therefore making it far more marketable than hip-hop albums that talk about the black experience.

Put yourself in the shoes of a power player in the music industry and ponder this: In the eyes of the masses, what’s going to earn you more respect and accolades? An elegant ballad about nostalgia and young love (Adele’s “Hello”), or a pro-black anthem celebrating pride in things like “negro noses” and natural hair (Beyoncé’s “Formation”)?” Though both songs were rewarded, “Hello” beat out “Formation” in both the Song and Record of the Year categories. Every song on “Lemonade” was far too ethnic to be considered for an award in any major category.

One of the most important elementts of hip-hop, soul and R&B music is storytelling. The stories told often touch on racially significant events and experiences, but because they aren’t relatable enough to the masses, they’re often brushed aside.

In 2013, Mumford and Sons beat out Frank Ocean for Album of the Year despite Channel Orange’s significance to the black and LGBTQ communities. To rub salt in the wounds of many hip-hopheads, three years later, Taylor Swift’s “1989” beat out Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” for Album of the Year. In fact, only ten black artists have been given this award in the lengthy history of the Grammys.

In reference to this year’s awards, some will have you believe race wasn’t considered when deciding the winners of certain categories because of the love shown for Chance the Rapper’s album “Coloring Book.” However, the awards Chance won were because of the novelty of not being signed to a label and the success of having a stream-only album rather than any artistic and cultural symbolism.

Something the Grammys did get right were the nominees in the R&B categories, recognizing artists like Solange, Anderson .Paak, and Gallant – though Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and .Paak’s “Malibu” were both disgustingly under-acknowledged. Unfortunately, people are apathetic toward this genre of music unless Sam Smith is involved. These might as well be throwaway categories because only the people who have a penchant for this particular style of music are going to care about who wins.

It’s not realistic to expect any better from the Grammys – outside of the Oscars and maybe the Tonys, people have learned not to put faith in awards shows. However, it’s important that these issues are addressed in regards to the music industry because representation is important. Social politics and marketing shouldn’t have such a huge hand in artistic recognition. Music is such an important part of people’s lives, it would be a shame to see the art form continue to be tainted by any sort of racial bias, overt or subtle.

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