At the most recent Grammys, the big controversy is that not only did Rihanna and Solange not win Grammys for their respective categories, but Beyonce lost album of the year to Adele. Let me start by saying that I’m well aware that the Grammys have a storied history of shutting out black artists. I’m also aware of WHY so few win, which is why this generation of black artists AREN’T winning: explicit blackness.
Let me clarify what I mean: the honest to god reason the last few black artists who have won more generalized categories like Best New Artist and Album of the Year is because they crossed over on account of said music not feeling like a threat to the majority of people listening and buying said music, namely white people. Truth is, yeah Lemonade was a great album, but at the same time it can’t be ignored why Adele won despite years of many of her fans being the same people who bigged up Beyonce: she embraced her blackness and to a great deal of white women fears, this unnerved them to where most walked away from her and a few stood up with their think pieces about how she turned her back on the very people THEY felt built her up.
And with this, it exposes what’s been going on with the Grammys for decades. It exposes that the inadvertent goal of the Grammys, whether by design or just by silent influence, musically stands in maintaining a cultural bubble for a great deal of white America. Never forget, the Grammys air on CBS, a channel owned by Viacom that’s very much responsible for how so much underrepresentation of black people exist. So it’s not beyond the pale to assume that the last thing that the powers that be would EVER want is to give an award and ultimately expose the people they are protecting in order to maintain viewership to music that may turn them away from them.
But you say, “But Chance The Rapper won!” Yes. But again, Chance The Rapper has more or less crossed over in terms of being an artist. Also, the difference between him and say, Kendrick Lamar is that Chance doesn’t make music that the viewers of CBS won’t turn to Fox News and hear them talk about how the Grammys are rewarding music that promotes cop killing and anti-white racism. Doesn’t make it true obviously, but they say it anyways.
And this is why I’m totally for the idea that if black artists TRULY want to stop this, their best bet is to stop playing. Like Gil said, Joy Villa had to wear a pro-Trump dress just to break even in her sales on iTunes. That ALONE should tell you who’s watching the Grammys. And once you consider that, it shouldn’t be shocking that the Grammys decided to please their viewers by giving the award to the sweet British woman singing about her love woes than the woman whose album contains a song that caused protests from police unions. You’re all right, Lemonade was a better album, but the fact is that politics will always play a part and real talk, it really is hypocritical to rail against white supremacy but demand validation from an entity that clearly gets patronage from, at best, virtue signaling white folks and at worst people who voted for Trump.
The solution that’s been brought up is that we reform the voting system in the Grammys and ultimately fight the bias, but even I think this is a bad idea. In the end, we’ll only wind up becoming what we hate as frankly we the millennial generation really aren’t cut out to form a solid opinion on what’s ACTUALLY good. As I said before, this generation due to social media has learned to build an echo chamber around themselves regardless of their ideals. Everyone goes believing what they believe, completely unchallenged if ever, and should they face any dissenting opinions they can shout, they can yell, they can throw every single bit of their ideological jargon at people. But at the end of the day, they can just block you and pretend you never existed and keep it rolling. And in terms of deciding whose music is deserving of an award, this is not good.
What’s more, there’s a lot of people my age who honestly believe that any artists that does ANYTHING problematic should not only be negated from any discussion on their body of works’ greatness, but that if they’re alive they should basically be exiled from society and if they’re dead, everyone should write, post and share articles about how said artist had this scandal back in the day and that we should stop praising him for his music because of it. I should know because I was guilty of doing just this when David Bowie died and lost a few friends off of it. But like I said, people my age will continue down a train of though as long as they’re getting regularly validated for it. And in the end, this could potentially fuck up how the awards work. Replacing baby boomers with millennials at the end of the day could easily go from what music appeased white middle America the most to literally what music offended the least amount of people. And this just isn’t good.
And when I say “music that offended people the least”, I mean that. There are so many indie artists that make meh to mediocre to frankly just awful music that maintains its fan base because it espouses the kinds of ideals that they like. I’m serious. I’m not even lumping Beyonce or Kendrick in this, but I am saying that there really are bands and musicians that if the idealistic but naive few got in power to possibly give them awards for their work, however bad, in the end could potentially give an award to a band or artist that might not even make that good of music but appeased those who were voting. JUST LIKE THIS ROUND OF GRAMMY WINNERS ARE DOING.
So what’s the solution? Honestly, the cold hard truth is that it’s really not gonna change till the Gen Xers take over for the baby boomers and start deciding what’s hot. But even then, this will likely result in shit like a resurgence in G-Funk and Grunge. But for us black folks, there’s really no real solution other than to work amongst ourselves if they want to maintain who they are as artists. Honestly, crossing over as a black artist really does come at the cost of having to lie to yourself, on way or another. So really, this is why we need the BET Awards and the Soul Train Awards. Because you really can’t expect people who have not and likely will not understand black music at its most authentic to also properly reward it.
At the end of the day, even if we were to suddenly change the Grammys for what we believe they should be, there’s nothing to stop them from straight up burning it down rather than letting us take it. And as I’ve said before, even if we took over, there’s still not guarantee that any power that came with being a Grammy winner will still be respected. So really, let’s award our own. Let’s be black and proud.