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The Controversy of the Grammy’s

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

The Grammy Awards first game to light in 1959. Since then, 62 annual shows and hundreds of awards have been given out, with Beyoncé and Quincy Jones holding the record for most Grammy’s won, sitting at a hefty 28. The Grammys have been described as an elegant way to represent the top musicians, albums and songs of each year. With broad categories from pop to country to Christian rock, numerous awards are given out at each event. However, in the most recent years, controversy has sparked surrounding the voting and nomination process of the Grammy Awards. As a result, many artists have lost in categories they did not deserve. Taylor Swift, for example, one of the most influential and robust artists in this century, has never won in the category for Song of the Year, which commends artists on their songwriting ability. Swift has been described by hundreds of critics as first a songwriter and second a singer due to her sheer talent in combining and rhyming words to generate a story in less than a three-minute song. Finally, let us not forget about the Weeknd not receiving any nominations in 2021 despite his outright extreme fame for his album ‘After Hours’ and the popular songs accompanied by it. Billboard just released their Top Songs of 2021, with ‘Blinding Lights,’ a single from the album, being one of the top songs of 2021 – yet no nod to a nomination. Below are my thoughts and opinions on the greatest Grammy scandals in this century so far.

Take, for example, BTS, a South Korean boy band, which has the most extensive fan base in the world, generating hundreds of millions of streams with every single produced. Their music is catchy and upbeat, so it’s no wonder they are being described as one of the most influential bands of the 21st century and possibly ever. However, in the 2021 Grammy Awards – the Grammy’s 63rd show – controversy erupted when BTS had lost their first-ever Grammy nomination for their hit song ‘Dynamite’ in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance to Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga’s pop anthem ‘Rain on Me.’ While both songs were top-rated in the music world in 2020, ‘Dynamite’ was far more popular, being ranked in Billboards’ ‘Year-End Hot 100 Chart,’ as the 38th most popular song of the year and ‘Rain on Me,’ tagged as the 48th most popular song of 2020. The song also charted for much longer than the former, three weeks at number one and 27 weeks in the top 100. ‘Rain on Me,’ however, lasted one week in the top spot and charted a following 20 weeks in the top 100. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a better song, but the statistics on the popularity of each song clearly show Dynamite to be a better choice for the Grammy. On Spotify, “Dynamite” racked up well over 725 million streams leading up to the Grammy Awards, while “Rain On Me” accumulated around 541 million. Even though it is common for famous artists to lose in their categories, seen as the competition is exceptionally high, fans and supporters of BTS were astonished at the fact this was also their only nomination for a Grammy ever. The group has been together since 2013, debuting singles and albums before the 2021 award show – it is clear they should have been nominated more times even before 2021. BTS has a second chance this year; to beat their losing streak, being nominated in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category again this year, with their song ‘Butter.’ Perhaps they have a chance of victory this year.

Fans of Miley Cyrus were left shocked once again when Cyrus was left without any nominations this year in any of the Rock categories for her spunky debut rock album ‘Plastic Hearts.’ This is surprising, as Cyrus was just recently ranked as Billboard’s #1 female rock artist of 2021. Cyrus has only been nominated for a Grammy once in her entire music career, in 2015, for her album Bangerz,’ in the category of Best Pop Vocal Album, but fell short. She has been an influential face in the pop, alternative and rock categories and deserves, in my opinion, multiple Grammy awards for her creativity and out of the boxing thinking when it comes to music. She released her frustration on Twitter, tweeting “in good company” alongside a link to an article listing 30 influential artists who haven’t won a Grammy. ‘Plastic Hearts,’ released in November of 2020, debuted at number two in the Billboard Hot 200 albums and received highly positive reviews from critics. Rolling Stone ranked the album a 4 out of 5, calling it a “karaoke night out that ends up being something more substantial” and pointed that Cyrus “knows exactly what kind of leather-jacket-and-combat-boot show she’s putting on here, and her full embrace of rock at its most bombastic, artificial, hair-metal glory is refreshing, to say the least.” She had top artists like Dua Lipa, Joan Jett and Billy Idol featuring in her album, with the album’s single ‘Midnight Sky’ reaching the #1 spot in 77 countries, charting for over four weeks. Despite Cyrus’s lack of Grammy nods, her 21-year-old sister, Noah Cyrus, surprisingly received a nomination in the 2021 awards for Best New Artist but was cut short by Megan Thee Stallion.

In the country aspect of Grammy nominations, controversy has lasted for years regarding the gender balance in nominations. Typically, almost no females are represented nor nominated in the most significant country categories like Best Country Solo Performance or Best Country song. For example, this year’s nominations for Best Country Album include five male nominations: Brothers Osborn, Mickey Guyton, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. The only female nod in this category goes to Miranda Lambert; however, this album is also credited to Jon Randall and Jack Ingram. While the albums in this category were all extremely famous regardless of gender, many female albums fell short of the nomination. Take, for example, up and coming country artist Kelsea Ballerini, whose second album ‘Kelsea’ took the country world by storm, highlighting heartbreak, anxiety and overthinking, in a powerfully vocal and emotional album. ‘Kelsea’ debuted at number two in the US Top Country Albums for Billboard, with her multiple hit songs, ‘Hole in the Bottle,’ ‘Half of my Hometown (featuring Kenney Chesney),’ and ‘Homecoming Queen,’ constantly playing on the radio. Ballerini is not the only female country artist who was snubbed from nominations. Iconic country music artist Kacey Musgraves, who has shown her strength as an artist with her already extensive collection of Grammy nominations and wins, showed her displeasure for missing out on Best Country Album for her recent album ‘star-crossed.’ I am biased when I say this album deserved a nomination in the category as it was one of my favourite releases this year. The album highlights Musgraves’ recent 2020 divorce from her husband, whom she wrote her previous album, ‘Golden Hour,’ about receiving a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2019 for it. It is an emotional piece of art, weaving the heartbreak, jealousy and perseverance one goes through when challenging a divorce in the social media spotlight. While one of the songs, ‘ camera roll,’ received two nominations this year in the Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song, her luck fell short when ‘star-crossed’ failed to receive a nomination in the top country category. And the reason: it wasn’t country enough, so was ineligible to receive the nomination. The Grammy Recording Academy argues that excluding the record, tagged as “country” in streaming and metadata, sets a dangerous precedent for the genre. The Grammys define the category of Best Country Album as ‘albums containing at least 51% playing time of new country recordings,’ in which Musgrave’s’ was apparently not. For those who have listened to the album, it is not your typical guitar are harmonica country album. It is infused with pop, folk, and soft rock elements, yet multiple songs, including ‘justified,’ ‘star-crossed,’ and ‘keep looking up,’ remain faithful to the country description. Musgrave’s commented on the controversy in a playful light, stating on her social media pages, ‘you can take the girl out of the country (genre), but not the country out of the girl.’ While the Grammys continue to thrive with views and attendance during each event, they continue to get bad press in the media for their decisions. What are your thoughts?

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