We should stop watching the Grammys


Photo courtesy of Angelina Zheng

Maya Nayak

When pop and R&B singer The Weeknd released his ‘80s-inspired album “After Hours” in March 2020, it seemed to be a shoo-in for awards. Critics praised the release, with many calling it The Weeknd’s best work to date. Fans loved it too; all of the “After Hours” singles went platinum, and “Blinding Lights”—the first COVID era chart-topper—became the most-streamed song of 2020.

Yet the Grammy Award nominations, released last November, made no mention of the Weeknd or After Hours. It was surprising in itself that the Grammys omitted The Weeknd from its most prestigious categories (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year). His absence in even its genre-specific fields made for one of the most egregious snubs in Recording Academy history.

The Weeknd, labeling the Grammys as “corrupt” in a tweet, told The New York Times that he plans to boycott the awards show in the future on account of the snub. The Weeknd is in good company in his recent repudiation of the Recording Academy. Artists like Drake, Kanye, and Teyana Taylor have also expressed their frustration with the award show’s opaque, unmeritocratic selection process.

Many criticisms of the Recording Academy derive from its use of a secret committee to whittle down nominations in prestigious and many genre-specific categories. The identities and qualifications of the committee members are unknown. We do not even know their standards for deciding who progresses to the voting stage. The committee may even make its decisions to bolster TV ratings rather than to honor quality work.

Somehow, these secret committees are not the most flawed aspect of the awards process. When the 10,000 Recording Academy members choose from the selected nominees, they must vote in a certain number of categories. Voting members must consequently cast their ballots outside of their areas of expertise. They may not have even heard all of the contenders before voting; they may vote arbitrarily or select a familiar name.

The Grammy Awards may be entertaining, but “Grammy-nominated” and “Grammy-winning” cannot continue to be the most coveted titles in the music industry. As long as the Recording Academy leaves so many deserving artists behind, we cannot continue to treat the Grammys as the ultimate measure of music quality.