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Oluwakemi Ajayi


Eng 102-06


Short Research Essay

What are the differences between black artist and white artist when it comes to the

Academy's choice for album of the year? More specifically, what are the criteria

being met for these artist to be considered winners? Since the Academy refuses to

release its 14,000 diversity voting pool. The few points I will be discussing

corresponds with the lack of minority winners, the amount of minority

performances vs. minority nominees, and the history behind all the winners

without an ethnic background or those with one.

As a wave of sighs, boos, hisses, and confusion flooded various homes

and social media platforms in the wake of Beyonce losing every major category

this year an article by Michael Arceneaux captured the hurt of many people of

color. Arceneaux states that the Grammys have had a racist history stretching

back decades before Beyonce. He goes on to say that since the shows inception in

1957, there has only been ten black artist that have won the night's biggest honor,

Album of the Year. Listing, as followed; Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson,Lionel

Richie, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Outkast, Ray
Charles, and Herbie Hancock. Stevie Wonder, being the first Black artist to win,

happened in 1974 and the last artist to win won over 9 years ago in 2008. It's a bit

shocking, especially since many were basically handed the award long past their

prime and for works that arguably catered more to the taste of the Grammys

(older white male voting body). In the most recent years, innovative works from

the likes of Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and of course, Beyonce,

have lost in this category to artists such as Daft Punk, Taylor Swift, Beck, and

Mumford and Sons. Arceneaux continues to say none of this is surprising, because

we live in a world where Taylor Swift has more awards than Prince who has none.

Neil Portnow, C.e.o and president of the Recording Academy, was asked

about the #OscarsSOWhite social media campaign. Neil Portnow response

reflected on one of those who would seem to be a member of the Democratic

National Committee. The Music community really is much more inclusive

because of the nature of the collaborations. Also, because of the nature of the

proliferation of influence of one genre into another over time. It's the history of

how much has evolved from the very beginning. It's very believable when they

present a slight amount of color in primetime, but truth be told the reality still

supports the fact that even though black women keep the Grammys alive, they

don't have enough of us in real positions of power. This is because the

organization doesn't value black women as much as they claim, and because they

only celebrate diversity only in superficial terms.

Do you still not believe the Grammys have a Race problem? There has

been over 200 performances from black recording artist at the ceremony.
Anybody can see how the claims of black people being under represented at the

Grammys can be apparent. Another article by Lorraine Ali, acknowledged that

even categories like best rap album are given to white pop-friendly acts allowing

them to win the prize for the traditionally African American genre. On a chart

that sums up the Grammy Nominations by Race since 1959, you can see the

dramatic differences between nominees with ethnic backgrounds and the white

nominees. With already a large difference of the amount of black nominees to the

amount of white nominees nominated each year, people of color often get cheated

out of the best record, album, song, and new artist of the year categories. Ali

continues to say that in the Grammys top four fields for 2015, just two of the 20

nominated artists are minorities: Pharrell Williams and Beyonce. Still, over the

last decade only two releases by minority artists have won the Grammy for record

of the year. According to Neil Portnow, the awards are all about honoring the best

work, and that race isn't something Grammy voters should consider. To me,

music has little to do with race, Portnow said. It has more to do with soul and

heart and passion and talent. We don't look at the artist in terms of their ethnic

background but in terms of how amazing they are. Year after year african

americans have to deal with their greatest artist losing time after time. Artist

everywhere took to social media to express their opinions and concerns.


In a more neutral article from The Atlantic Daily, the writers begin to say

the Grammy nominations will not fix Americas divisions. Music is more

tribalistic, more identity-entangled, than any other popular art form, and so the
motion of everyone agreeing on the best song or album perpetually seems like a

bland fantasy. Beyonce, being the most nominated woman in the history of the

Awards, but of all her 20 wins, only one was over in a general - field category.

Beyonce found a way to cross mix her music for it to appeal to all demographics

landing her positions in Best Rock Performance and more. As one of the most

famous singers in the world, a win for her Lemonade would signal a more

politically sensibility than the Academy is use to. Lets face it it'll probably keep

Kanye off the stage as well. (Atlantic). Other sources suggest that The Recording

Academy isn't in touch with culture, because music is culture. An executive

explains to E.W Ent. Weekly, he was surprised because lemonade was so

culturally relevant. I can't name any album that was more impactful for women,

for black women, and for music lovers. According to Pop culture expert and

SiriusXM host Bevy Smith, agreed as well, Lemonade held up a mirror to

America. It was a real movement. Its sad America rejected it in that way.

Lastly, after all the information previously stated one can argue the racial

incompetence lead from The Recording Academy is largely consumed by the

amount of individuals that refuse to acknowledge the obvious neglect. A majority

of the sources say that since 1959 the Grammys album of the year award has

been awarded to over 160 plus white males, 54 white female, 39 men of color,

and 27 women of color. This alone shows the Academy's tendency of year after

year misrepresentation of proper urban artist. From a personal standpoint I believe

that from a perspective music lover, we understand there are multiple ways to

determine your favorite song. Since there are so many different types of genres
and flavors of music it is almost impossible for one person to agree with another

on a generalization of one specific winner. With that being said though we

understand the vast amount of categories and musical preferences, we can't ignore

the fact that less and less African American artist get nominated each year. We

can't ignore the amount of urban artist asked to perform at the ceremony in

attempt to earn their recognition. More and more black artist have refused to show

up to the awards as well as they have turned down request from the Academy to

participate in the award show. If the Grammys continues to not recognize these

artist of color as the years continue this could build a potential division between

races in the ceremony which in light of the recent government change is only fuel

to a burning flame.

Work Cited

Arceneaux, Michael. "The Grammys have a racist history stretching back decades

before Beyonc. "Fusion. Fusion.net, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 04 May 2017.

"Grammys 2015: Diversity wins onstage but not in awards arena." Los Angeles

Times. 7 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.

Kornhaber, Spencer. "The Culture Wars in the Grammy Album Nominations."

The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 06 Dec. 2016. Web. 04

May 2017.

Brown, Eric Renner. "Examining the Grammys' Race Issue." EW.com. Time Inc,

16 Feb. 2017. Web. 04 May 2017.

McKinney, Kelsey. "It's not just the Oscars. The Grammys are incredibly white,

too." Fusion. Fusion.kinja.com, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.