The Culture of the Grammys: Race Relations at Music’s Most Star Studded Event

During this time of year, celebrities in fashion, music, and cinema are recognized for their abilities across various industries. With every award season, there is a new controversy regarding issues of racial divisions and the recognition of African American artists. After the 2017 Grammys, the conversation was sparked again, and social media and news outlets were quick to generate conversation and “stir the pot” among music fans everywhere. From the night to remember, the most notable topics of conversations surrounded artists Adele, Beyonce, and Chance the Rapper. In terms of nominations, viewers expected a showdown between Adele and Beyonce, talented female singers. Additionally, Chance the Rapper, an artist who has given his music away for free and is supported by no record company, took home three grammy awards. While the success of these artists is to be noted, the cultural impact of these figures can be taken as the most significant outcome of the Grammy Awards.

In some of the biggest categories of the night, “Song of the Year, “Album of the Year” and “Record of the Year, Adele took home the Grammys for her single “Hello” from her album 25. Beyonce was nominated for 9 Grammys, but only won 2. She won in the categories of “Best Music Video” and “Best Urban Contemporary Album”. When she won the award for “Album of the Year”, however, she said that her personal album of the year and true musical inspiration was Beyonce and her album Lemonade. Adele only spoke kind words of Beyonce, saying that her cultural album was “soul bearing” and “monumental”. Furthermore, following her win, she told reporters, “My album of the year is Lemonade. What the f— does she have to do to win Album of the Year?”. Taking a note on Beyonce’s cultural impact and empowerment of African Americans through her album Lemonade, Adele said, “You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel is empowering, and you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you, I always have.” Often times, people assume that when a white person talks about their “black friends” it is in reference to make whatever remark they say appear not racist or to justify a comment made by a white person. However, Adele’s remark only affirms the cultural appeal of Beyonce’s album to both African Americans and a larger audience, which is exactly the reason in which Adele feels it should have won.

In looking back on the history of African American women at the Grammy Awards, it is important to note that the last time a black woman won “Record of the Year” was in 1994, awarded to Whitney Houston. Lauryn Hill won “Album of the Year” in 19999, indicating that no black women have won these two prestigious awards in this century. These statistics have called into question the racism of the Recording Academy, whom does not report its demographics of members. One of the senior level executive record company executives thinks that the the Recording Academy is “not in touch with culture, and music is culture”. Furthermore, considering how many black artists perform at the Grammys, it could be called into question at the intent. During the Grammys, African American artists perform regularly, and Beyonce’s performance this year was particularly exceptional, definitely drawing in viewers. At the same time, these same people aren’t always the one winning the awards, which seems contradictory in nature.

Some notable artists did not attend this year, and James Corden, the host even made a joke about it. Drake and Kanye West, both nominees, did not attend. While Kanye was preparing for New York Fashion Week, and Drake was on tour in Europe, it appears as though artists may have lost faith in the awards show. Justin Bieber, who also did not attend but was nominated in top categories, spoke out about the Grammys, feeling they were not representative, especially of younger artists. Furthermore, artists who were in attendance definitely took the opportunity to speak out about politics, race, and other civic issues across America. “A Tribe Called Quest” joined by other performers of diverse ethnicities, sent a political message with their performance, ending their performance shouting “resist”. Katy Perry performed her politically inspired song, “Chained to the Rhythm” about the way in which people fall into the routine and take notice of what is around them and wore a “persist” armband.

In evaluation of the messages throughout the night, it is evident that celebrities are using their voices to take note of civic issues in America. In some ways, people believed America should pull an Adele. Just as Adele started over, when she messed up her tribute to George Michael, people feel America should do the same. The voices of celebrities should not be the only ones heard. Everyday citizens need to work against issues of race, politics, and gender in order for these major civic issues to be resolved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *