2021 Grammy nominations reaffirm that the ceremony is unworthy of prestige

The+Grammys+have+long+been+a+pop+culture+staple%2C+and+are+treated+as+a+metric+for+musical+success+and+ability.+Though+the+repute+of+the+Grammys+is+indisputable%2C+they+are+also+notorious+for+controversy%2C+some+of+which+demands+that+their+position+in+the+music+industry+and+society+at+large+be+reassessed.

Graphic by Mimi Casey ’22

The Grammys have long been a pop culture staple, and are treated as a metric for musical success and ability. Though the repute of the Grammys is indisputable, they are also notorious for controversy, some of which demands that their position in the music industry and society at large be reassessed.

Mimi Casey ’22, Paper Opinions Editor

Few art forms are so unifying or accessible as music, and the artists responsible are undoubtedly deserving of recognition. Accordingly, a ceremony exists that claims to do just that. The Grammys are, by most metrics, the most prestigious musical awards ceremony and draw millions of viewers every year.

Status, however, has not saved the awards ceremony and the body responsible for it from controversy. Almost every aspect of the Grammys has been subject to criticism, and this year is no different. Now that the 2021 nominees have been announced, the question of whether or not the Grammys should continue to be regarded as an authority on the quality of music or accomplishment of artists is more timely than ever. The easy answer is that they should not.

One of the most enduring critiques of the Grammys has been their categorization. Historically, this system has seen black artists relegated to the label of “urban”––a category that was recently renamed in a move many are decrying as performative activism. 

Categorization notwithstanding, it would be incorrect to assume that the Grammys reward the critically acclaimed over the commercially successful. Routinely, songs, albums and artists acknowledged by both critics and the general public as boundary-breaking are overlooked in favor of more mainstream output.

Categorization notwithstanding, it would be incorrect to assume that the Grammys reward the critically acclaimed over the commercially successful. Routinely, songs, albums and artists acknowledged by both critics and the general public as boundary-breaking are overlooked in favor of more mainstream output.”

— Mimi Casey ’22

It would be similarly incorrect to assume that the only factor in Grammy nominations and wins is commercial success. Further controversy results from incredibly successful albums being excluded completely from the ceremony and nominations.

One of the most noteworthy names missing from the list of nominees this year was The Weeknd, who recently released the wildly successful and record-breaking album “After Hours,” but also included artists like Halsey and Selena Gomez. Predictably, this was met with widespread castigation from critics and casual listeners alike, and it is indubitable that the announcement of winners will generate similar censure.

It is not quite clear what is being rewarded or acknowledged by a Grammy win, but it is obvious that musical accomplishment is not nearly as large of a factor as one would hope. The Grammys fail, therefore, to uphold their core mandate––rewarding artistic achievement––and consequently, should not be seen as a metric of talent or success in the musical field.

Music, perhaps, was never meant to be assessed like this. The Grammys are something of a corrupt competitive sport with seemingly arbitrary outcomes. It is understandable, then, that they produce so little satisfaction. Moreover, the dubious ethicality of both the ceremony and the organizers behind it precludes comfortable support.

Reforming something as fundamentally flawed as the Grammys would be an extensive and complicated undertaking. In the meantime, it is imperative that we find better ways of rewarding musical achievements and cease in regarding the awards as an authority on quality or accomplishment.