When the 2021 Grammy nominations were announced, they were met with backlash from artists who felt snubbed, confined into the wrong categories, or who generally have distaste for award shows.
As the show nears, set to air on Sunday March 14th, more artists have taken a stand against the institution and are boycotting this year’s ceremony.
The Weeknd, whose single “Blinding Lights” was one of the top songs of 2020 and who performed at the 2021 Super Bowl halftime performance, was notably snubbed. After racking up big Grammy nominations for Beauty Behind the Madness in 2016, Abel Tesfaye did not earn a single nomination this year.
In a recent statement to The New York Times, Abel said: “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
This is no surprise. After the nominations were announced in November, Abel tweeted: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…
— The Weeknd (@The Weeknd)1606264148.0
Other artists such as Halsey also spoke out about the Academy’s exclusiveness. Halsey, whose fans were vocal about their disappointment for her lack of recognition, went on Instagram to say that earning a nomination depends on “knowing the right people.”
Halsey Statement Screenshotvia Instagram
Zayn Malik, whose album Nobody Is Listening was not eligible for the 2021 awards, also chimed in to support those speaking out against the institution.
Fuck the grammys and everyone associated. Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination consideratio… https://t.co/nznFoxFcNu
— zayn (@zayn)1615313096.0
My tweet was not personal or about eligibility but was about the need for inclusion and the lack of transparency of… https://t.co/EGWeX89t47
— zayn (@zayn)1615336801.0
This is not the first time the Grammy Academy has been called out. Frank Ocean notably did not submit Blonde for the Grammys the year it was released — an album acknowledged as one of the best and most important of the decade. Other major artists like Drake have also renounced the award show for its old fashioned exclusivity.
After years of backlash about the seeming segregation of Black artists into “Urban” categories, many of the award names were changed — the most significant being Best Urban Contemporary Album, which was renamed Best Progressive R&B Album.
However, the process of nomination seemed to follow the same old trends, as major award nominations went to institutional mainstays. While stars like Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion earned top nominations, the major awards were still lacking in diversity.
The arbitrary categorization of award nominations was even called out by Justin Bieber, who was nominated in the pop category for Changes, an album he felt was distinctly R&B. The album was full of R&B/Hip-Hop collaborators and producers, so Justin had a point.
The Grammys are not the only award show to be called out. The 2021 Golden Globes drew major criticisms for its own nominations, and #OscarsSoWhite is never not relevant.
However, not everyone has the platform to boycott the Grammys in a major way. Frank Ocean didn’t need a Grammy to solidify his status as one of the greats, and Drake and the Weeknd are top charting artists with or without official nods.
Lesser known artists gain much needed recognition from award show categories like Best New Artist and can amass new audiences and industry pedigree. This year’s breakout was Black Pumas, who were nominated for Best New Artist and Album of the Year.
For artists like these, Ava DuVernay’s sentiments about film ring true to all award shows: “The truth that’s not often discussed is that awards play a part in the economic reality of Black filmmakers, artists of color and women creators in this business … Unfortunately, these shiny things matter to those who finance, greenlight, produce, distribute and market our projects.”
So while The Weeknd’s stand against the Grammys is an important step to urge diversity and question the powers that be, it also begs the question: Why is so much in the industry centered around these institutions? There are real stakes beyond the ego boost of winning, stakes that are higher for marginalized groups.