Breaking Down the Grammys

Album of the year, and record of the year were won by Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. Mars also picked up song of the year with ‘That’s What I Like’. Best rap album was awarded to Damn by Kendrick Lamar. He also picked up best rap/sung performance with Rihanna for ‘Loyalty’. Ed Sheeran won best pop solo performance with ‘Shape of You’. Best new artist was awarded to Alessia Cara.


But some thing else is in order.

You’ve had the run down of award winners, but, despite some questionable nominations and questionable wins (‘Despacito’ lost song of the year to ‘That’s What I Like’?), there were also questions raised about female representation. If you’re trying to avoid the topic of yet another article about women in the music industry then you need to ask yourself how your apathy is going to help the matter. The wearing of white roses in solidarity of the Time’s Up campaign, and performances emphasizing messages part of the #MeToo campaign, and Janelle Monae’s well delivered speech on the matter gave the impression that the Grammys understood the significance of the female voice. Apparently not. Maybe this restored the balance enough for the discrimination to continue in the male dominated nominations and awards winners. Oh, and that all the album of the award nominees were given solo performances, except the one female nominee, Lorde. The explanation Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich gave for this choice was that ‘we have a box and it gets full […] there’s no way we can really deal with everybody’ (source). No, perhaps not, Ehrlich, but maybe don’t make it look so discriminatory in the future?

In the last 6 years, less than 10 per cent of grammy nominations were women (source). These statistics, which were provided by the University of Southern California, showed that NOT ONCE in the past 6 years has a women been nominated as producer of the year. 2017 was in fact a 6 year low for women representation in the grammys, and this year was another one of women being pushed aside. If you’re a woman don’t worry, because the old, white, male president of the Grammys, Neil Portnow, has some advice… ‘step up’ as he thinks women ‘would be welcome’. Clearly, his comments come from a place of deep understanding, as he also said ‘I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face’ (source). It was a catastrophic blunder for Portnow as he was unable to articulate his thoughts without being condescending and insulting. Amidst receiving a backlash of comments criticizing his remark he apologized that he had not delivered his words well.

Why, if we’ve seen such female led movements this year, has this level of representation occurred at the Grammys? Can we be angry at Sheeran for winning best pop solo performance and snubbing four women of the prize? We should head deeper to one of the roots of this issue: the Recording Academy. The International Business Times breaks down who makes up the academy and what their voting process is here. However, it doesn’t have the space to comment on the glass ceilings and exclusive networks that can determine its membership. Consider that these people are industry experts including ‘vocalists, songwriters, sound engineers, producers and more’, and if the representation of female nominated producers have been non-existent in the past 6 years you might wonder what the gender and race ratio of the academy is made up from.

We could wonder what this year will bring in terms of new music. We could wonder what the Grammys will hold next year. But maybe there’s only room to think about one of these things, and maybe it’s time to stop looking towards this awards ceremony as a worthy representation of the real commendations of the music industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *