This year’s Grammy Awards, which took place last night, had been touted by some as the most diverse ever, given that five of the most nominated performers were black. Despite this, a number of performers boycotted the show over its perceived bias against non-white performers. The backlash is also thought to be a response to certain black performers being relegated over the years, shut out of the major awards and into genre categories.
R&B singer Frank Ocean – whose album Blonde was among the year’s most critically acclaimed – refused even to submit his music for nomination this year. He claimed this ‘dated’ award show ‘doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from’. He criticised the ‘cultural bias’ of Taylor Swift’s 1989 winning Best Album last year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
Drake and Kanye West, despite both having eight nominations, also chose not to attend this year’s ceremony. But Kanye’s longstanding agitation with award shows notwithstanding, the two made no big statement about not attending, and may have just decided to miss it.
It’s no help to the Grammys’ reputation that its producers responded in a rather petty way to its critics – in a way that the Academy never attempted in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Producer Ken Ehrlich and writer David Wild slammed Ocean’s performance at the 2013 Grammys, suggesting his ‘faulty’ performance was the true reason behind his boycott this year. They were also perplexed as to why Drake would dare to be on tour in Europe while the Grammys was due to take place. Their comments reeked of desperation.
In the end, the ceremony played out as expected, with Beyoncé losing out to Adele in all of the major categories. That said, Chance the Rapper was the first black musician to win Best New Artist in six years. And even Adele seemed embarrassed about the snubbing of Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, saying in her last speech that she adores Queen Bey and ‘the way you make my black friends feel’.