• Iksha Sinha

GRAMMYs: How do you get one?

Grammy Awards, apart from being the highest honour in the music industry, is renowned for their surprising nominations and snubs every year.


The past week the academy released their 2021 nominations list and SURPRISE! SURPRISE! They didn't fail to surprise us, but this time they took it a bit too far.

Abel Tesfaye's (The Weeknd) 'Blinding Lights', the most omnipresent song of the past year, and his album 'After Hours' were nominated for zero, YES ZERO Grammy nominations for this year.


Blinding lights by The Weeknd.


Like every mistake, I'm pretty sure the academy would have an answer one for this as well.


Was it rigged?


Were they confused if The Weeknd is a Pop or R&B act?


There is a small possibility that the committee may have decided that he didn't fit any, meaning the Pop committee must have considered him R&B and R&B committee must've considered him Pop.


Or is it the fact that the academy's recent attempts to address diversity and inclusion, have not been enough?


Having set up an inclusion and diversity task force in 2018 and around September this year the Black Music Collective (BMC). The BMC has called the 2021 nominations "historic", “Ten Black women are nominated in the top four categories and more than 20 Black nominees are represented in the general fields. Also, for the first time, all six nominees for best rap album are Black independent artists. This is progress.”


However, also stating the fact “Our work is not done, and it will take some more time, but the mission to be more inclusive continues.” When addressing disappointed artists.


Artists like Drake, Kanye West, Tyler, the creator, Frank Ocean and many more have been vocal about the system and their lack of support towards Black Artistry.


Back when Tyler, the creator won the best rap album in 2020 for Igor, even though he is "grateful" for this acknowledgement he feels bitter about the fact that the Recording Academy puts black artists under 'rap and/or urban' category. He said, “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me. When I hear that I’m like: why can’t we just be in pop?”


Tyler, The Creator wins Best Rap Album, 2020


Well, the Academy clearly has a long way to go and work towards acknowledging Black artistry but on the brighter side, this year’s nomination of Mickey Guyton made history when she became the first Black female solo artist to receive a nomination in a country music category, with her song Black Like Me nominated for best country solo performance.


The Grammys honour "artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position." Let us dig in deep and understand how are these artists nominated and voted for. The nominations are regulated by the voting members or the Nominations Review Committee or Craft Nominating Committee processes.

These members have to vote on the four categories of the General field and they can, later on, vote in up to 15 different categories according to their expertise.


Nominations Review Committee :

Under the Nominations Review Committee, we have the General field, this consists of Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best New Artist. The General field consists of around 20 music generalists who are voting members of the Academy. "They review the top 20 selections resulting from the general membership vote on the first ballot, then vote via confidential ballot to select the top eight nominations in each category."


The other aspect that Nominations Review Committee deals with include of, American Roots, Regional Roots, Children’s Music, Classical, Contemporary Instrumental/ New Age, Country, Dance/Electronic Music, Gospel/CCM, Jazz, Latin, Music Video/Film, Rap, Rock, R&B, and World Music Nomination Review Committees.

Here we have panels with 13 to 17 voting members who are recognized experts in their respective fields. "The committees meet to review and listen to the top 15 selections resulting from the general membership vote on the first ballot in those categories. They then vote via confidential ballot to determine the five finalists in each category."


Craft Nominating Committee:

"Craft categories recognise excellence in highly specialised crafts. Craft Committee members must be Voting Members of the Academy in the membership class which corresponds to the Craft they are being submitted to judge. Each must fill out a Documentation Form listing six tracks or albums for which they have the nomination-eligible credit corresponding to the Craft they are being submitted to judge. The credits must be for recordings released in the previous five years. The form remains on file at the National Office of the Recording Academy and is valid for five years." (source: GRAMMYs Nominations pdf)


Nomination Process diagrammatically


There are two voting rounds, artists and/or registered media companies are invited to submit their 'entries', ie songs that will be considered for the Grammy awards.

Around 300 and experts determine whether or not the entries are eligible, and the ones that meet the eligibility are further voted on by the Recording Academy's voting members.


The first round of voting determines the nominees. The voting members can vote only in the areas of their expertise, they can vote in up to 15 genre categories and also the four categories of the General field.

The last and the final round is when the voting members vote the winners amongst the nominations.


The voting process throughout is that of secret ballot. These votes are the, later on, tabulate by Deloitte, an accounting firm, and results are unknown until the night of the Grammy Awards. The results are sent in sealed envelopes.


Voting Process Infographic


One may not know the reason behind The Weeknd's omission, most claim "After hours" to be the greatest album this year (including myself) but the Academy clearly didn't.


Was is it rigged after all?


I believe that awards and/or recognitions do not determine whether you're a great artist or no. If your art is good or not. Jimi Hendrix never won a Grammy. However, received a lifetime achievement award in 1992. Queen was nominated four times but never won one. Tupac received 6 nominations, again never won one.

These are some of the greatest artists and musicians of all time, them not winning GRAMMYs does not make their craft any less and never will.

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