Roar writer Justine Noble discusses the controversies around the 2021 Grammy Award nominations.
The announcement of nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on Wednesday has hardly been well received. As people scanned the list, celebrating the numerous achievements of big stars such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa, something seemed to be missing. That something was the Canadian R&B legend The Weeknd, who despite having released the best-selling album of 2020 in the US, After Hours, and achieved the longest-running top 10 hit in US chart history, received not one nomination. It would be an understatement to say that his fans – who had confidently expected to see his name outshining fellow musicians in most, if not all, of the main categories – are infuriated.
Many fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment, flooding the internet with angry tweets such as “The Weeknd is a legend THROW THE GRAMMY’S AWAY” and “the weeknd not getting nominated for a single grammy is a CRIME.” This fury was amplified in many of the artist’s supporters by the disparity between the quality of After Hours and that of the music that did receive nominations, such as Justin Bieber’s song “Yummy” as well as his album Changes. As a result, the discontent over The Weeknd turned into an attack on Bieber, one fan speaking for many when she bitterly asked: “Plz explain to me how we live in a world where Justin Bieber gets nominated for 5 Grammys (3 of them for “Yummy” alone) while The Weeknd gets 0 nominations after having the most charted song in 2020 and the most streamed R&B album of all time.”
At this point, you may be asking yourself: Isn’t this level of rage over Grammy nominations a little irrational? Why are The Weeknd fans being so immature? We all want our favorite artist to be nominated, after all. You win some and you lose some, right? But the outrage which followed this year’s nominations is not just the product of a bunch of salty The Weeknd fanatics blowing things out of proportion. When we look at the ratings both After Hours and Changes have received, it becomes clear why people are as upset as they are. While The Guardian gave After Hours four out of five stars, Changes received only three. Many fans are using statistics like these to prove the Grammys are corrupt.
The corruption doesn’t end there, however. Following Wednesday’s nominations, The Weeknd himself released a tweet directly addressing the Grammys, which stated: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…” He went on to say “Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” What The Weeknd is referring to is his suspicion, now also that of many of his fans, that negotiating a deal with the Grammys to perform both at their ceremony and the Superbowl cost him the nominations he deserved. Sources such as TMZ have revealed that after being met with an ultimatum by the Grammys to either perform at the former or the Superbowl, The Weeknd, following weeks of negotiation, managed to spark an agreement in which both were possible. It seems obvious now that these talks put Grammy executives in a pretty bad mood.
Why would The Weeknd performing at both events be a problem, though? Unfortunately, no one really knows, but some have assumed that the Grammys dislike the idea of the same performance being aired twice, as CBS would have aired both one week apart in February. However, this is neither a valid excuse for presenting the artist with an ultimatum in the first place nor for denying him nearly indisputably well-deserved nominations. The annual Grammy Awards ceremony should be about celebrating music that defined the year; music that made millions of people laugh, cry, dance, and learn more about themselves. It is severely disappointing how blatantly obvious it is that the Grammys give out nominations and awards according to their own commercial interests rather than their integrity and the merit of the artists they are supposed to support.
Better yet, The Weeknd was not the only artist that got snubbed. Harry Styles, whose new album Fine Line has already been featured on Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Albums of All Time” list, did not receive any main category nominations. In the rap world, young artists who dominated the game this year – such as Lil Baby, Da Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, as well as the late Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD – were passed up for musicians twice their age whom many young people have never even heard of. It is becoming increasingly clear that the 2021 ceremony will not showcase an accurate year in review, and this cannot go ignored.
While it is important to hold major organizations such as the Grammy Awards responsible, we can simultaneously choose not to place value on their decisions. In the words of the Canadian rap star Drake: “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what was once the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after.” We give the Grammys their importance. Thus, we can choose to take it away. Either way, what we are all obligated to do when it comes to something as personal as art is to recognise that its true value is the one which we ourselves attribute to it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.