top of page

The Grammys And The Art Of Doing The Bare Minimum

A feature article about the Grammys and their diversity quota.

The Grammys. You know what it is. I know what it is. Everyone knows what it is. But for those who don’t, it is the most esteemed music award show of the year. The Grammys, which are given out by The Recording Academy, honor performers of all ages and genres.  In 1958, the first Gramophone Awards—now known as the GRAMMY Awards—were presented. The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, and The Emmy Awards both acknowledged the best performers in cinema and television at the time, but there was no musical counterpart. Following the completion of the Hollywood Walk of Fame project in the 1950s, a revived interest in music and the recording business resulted in the establishment of The GRAMMY Awards to recognize the music industry's most outstanding composers, songwriters, and performers.

Only 28 categories were awarded at the first GRAMMY Awards ceremony, however, 84 categories were presented in 2019. Additionally, each year, categories are given out that cover all musical genres. These include Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Record of the Year.  Hundreds of music industry professionals from various genres participate in the voting process for GRAMMY Award candidates. Recording Academy members vote on the submissions in a ballot. Members may only vote in the four major categories and those categories in which they are most knowledgeable.

Last year in December, Drake showed his displeasure with the Grammys by withdrawing his nominations for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance.  Drake's withdrawals bring into question the discriminatory policies of major award ceremonies, citing The Recording Academy's history of prejudice. Artists of color continue to be chronically underrepresented on the Academy's top four nomination lists. In reality, Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, released 13 years ago, was the last album to include a black musician to win Album of the Year.

The Best Rap Album category was created in 1996 to cater to the surge of classic rap albums made during that period. Although it was intended to promote diversity, the category now functions mainly as a method of exclusion, excluding artists of color from earning recognition in the big four categories. Tyler the Creator expressed his opinion on this inequality when his revolutionary album, Igor, won the prize for Best Rap Album in 2020. “It sucks that whenever we and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a ‘rap’ or ‘urban’ category. … I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. To me, it’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word. Why can’t we just be in pop?” This prejudice might be founded on the notion that pop music is designed to be enjoyable, consumable, and accessible to everybody. It tends to avoid more urgent issues such as racial injustice, gender inequity, and prejudice.

Stars like Zayn Malik and Halsey complained the selection process was unfair and opaque. Artists of color have long complained about the awards' lack of diversity. The Weekend, a Canadian musician, accused the Grammy organizers of being corrupt last year when he was overlooked for the year's nominations, despite having a smashing track that went a record-breaking 52 weeks in the US Top 10. He told Billboard magazine, "If you were like, 'Do you think the Grammys are racist?' I think the only real answer is that in the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won album of the year."

The Korean-pop group BTS, who have smashed countless records since their debut in 2013, became the subject of the Grammys' greatest worldwide scandal. They are not only the first Korean group to top the Billboard 200 in the United States, but they are also the first to do so multiple times. Furthermore, they are the only music group since The Beatles to have four #1 albums in less than two years. Their performance and nomination drew notice to the awards presentation this year due to their fame and large fan base. Despite their well-received performance and record-breaking successes in the previous year, they left the event Grammy-less, losing to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain on Me" in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. Following BTS's defeat, fans flocked to Twitter to voice their outrage, saying that the Grammys exploited the group's popularity. BTS fans questioned if the group had a shot from the start since they come from outside of the United States.

Whatever the cause, the Grammys now serves merely as a broadcast demonstration of institutional racism. The Recording Academy has established itself as an award ceremony for white people, by white people, from nominations to recipients, past and present, from Taylor Swift to The Weekend. Artists of color have consistently been severely misrepresented and excluded from nomination lists. Despite the outpouring of outrage from fans and artists who have witnessed prejudice firsthand, The Academy has done nothing to adapt or become more egalitarian and inclusive.


BBC NEWS, 2021. Grammy Awards scrap controversial voting committees. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Fitzgerald, A., 2022. THE RACIST HISTORY OF THE GRAMMY AWARDS. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Herrin, T., 2021. The Grammys’ Casual Racism Has Gone on for Too Long. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Musicians Hall Fame & Museum, n.d. GRAMMY Awards History and Fun Facts`. [Online] Available at:,composers%2C%20songwriters%2C%20and%20musicians[Accessed 2023].

Savage, M., 2021. Zayn Malik lashes out at Grammy Awards voters. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].


bottom of page