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Grammy's raise controversial questions of race

by Kayla Green - Staff Writer
Tue, Feb 21st 2017 10:55 pm
Several popular artists boycotted this year's Grammy Awards in opposition to what they believe is the awards' lacking representation of minority groups. Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber and Kanye West are some examples of artists who refused to attend the awards. The issue of race was also raised due to Adele winning all three major awards over Beyoncé.
Several popular artists boycotted this year's Grammy Awards in opposition to what they believe is the awards' lacking representation of minority groups. Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber and Kanye West are some examples of artists who refused to attend the awards. The issue of race was also raised due to Adele winning all three major awards over Beyoncé.

 Even before the ceremony began, speculations of rivalry and race playing a part on music's biggest night were already running rampant around the 59th Grammy Awards. 

According to The New York Times article, "Adele vs. Beyoncé: What's at Stake for the Grammys?" by Ben Sisario and Joe Coscarelli, rapper Frank Ocean made headlines by refusing to submit his work for consideration for one of the prestigious awards because the organization "just doesn't seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from," Ocean stated.

In addition to this reason, Ocean boycotted the show due to the fact that the Grammy producers called his performance at the 2013 show, "not great TV" and "faulty", according to ABC News. The producers believed this to be the reason Ocean would not be participating this year, which he explained in a post on his personal Tumblr  blog: 

"Don't you think I would've wanted to play the show to 'redeem' myself if I felt that way? In reality, I actually wanted to participate in honoring Prince on the show but then I figured my best tribute to that man's legacy would be to continue to be myself out here and to be successful. Winning a TV award doesn't christen me successful. I am young, black, gifted and independent... that's my tribute."

According to Billboard, Ocean continued to slam the institution by expressing his disgust for its decision to give Taylor Swift's "1989" best album over Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly" at last year's show.

Kanye West also boycotted this year's show due to the fact that Frank Ocean's "Blonde" and "Endless" were not eligible for consideration.

Justin Bieber boycotted as well, saying he "just doesn't think the Grammys are relevant or representative, especially when it comes to young singers," according to People magazine.

Drake was touring in Europe and therefore could not attend, but there is speculation about whether or not this is a coincidence.

So, what does this all have to do with race? Many different genres and races were represented, but when it came to the big three awards, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year, Adele took all over Beyoncé.

Many people took to Twitter to express their disappointment and frustration over this fact, saying Beyoncé was robbed and that "Lemonade" had more of a cultural impact than Adele's album "25."

Despite the backlash, Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy, said there is no race problem with the Grammy's, according to E News.

"Remember, this is a peer-voted award," Portnow told Pitchfork. "So when we say the Grammys, it's not a corporate entity —it's the 14,000 members of the Academy. They have to qualify in order to be members, which means they have to have recorded and released music, and so they are sort of the experts and the highest level of professionals in the industry."

Portnow went on to explain that there are 84 categories of different music and that in his opinion, musicians, "don't listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity."

On the same side as Portnow are Chief Executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation Joel Peresman, and veteran record executive now with 300 Entertainment Kevin Liles. 

"I don't think it's a black and white thing; it's a quality thing," said Peresman

Liles agreed.

 "If it was truly a dormant or stagnant association, then Beyoncé wouldn't be there. All shapes, sizes, colors and genres are represented," Liles told the New York Times.

On the other side of the coin is Russell Simmons, a founder of Def Jam Recordings, who thinks that Beyoncé is long overdue to be honored in the mainstream categories. Beyoncé has 22 Grammy's to her name, but only one is in one of the three largest categories.

"When they define her, her color has something to do with the way she's viewed and the amount of awards she wins and the accolades she gets," Simmons said. "I would venture to say were she white and blonde from Texas, she would be recognized differently."

One thing I think most people can agree on is that both "Lemonade" and "25" are incredible pieces of music and both Beyoncé and Adele are incredible musicians. To even put the two in the same category is almost funny, considering how different their artistry is. "Lemonade", with its contemporary, urban R&B vibes and political and racial references, and "25", with its slow, powerful ballads and traditional pop sound, could not be more different. However, the friendship between the two artists is something to be admired.

"I can't possibly accept this award," Adele said in her acceptance speech for Album of the Year. "And I'm very humbled and I'm very grateful and gracious. But the artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the "Lemonade" album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it's so monumental."

This might be what I love about Adele so much. She is humble. She is real and even though, in my opinion, she really did deserve the award, she downplayed her win by recognizing her rival in the categories.

Whether or not you believe race played a part in the Grammy winners this year, I think the show did a wonderful job of showcasing all that the music industry has to offer.

As Jennifer Lopez said on the broadcast, when it comes down to it, it is all about the music; "so tonight, we celebrate our most universal language, music, as we honor the voices of the past and the present."


kgree3@brockport.edu

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