Every time Ed Sheeran wins a Grammy, I am reminded of how pointless and flawed award shows are in their current form. It is not that I hate Ed Sheeran’s music, but it is a reminder that the Grammys has an immense platform, but continues to misuse.
Every spring, the Golden Globes, Grammys, Oscars and numerous other award shows aim to award the past year’s best music, movies and artists, giving them a shiny trophy and worldwide attention. However, every spring, without fail, award shows clearly show Hollywood’s and the recording industry’s racism, sexism and corrupt control of pop culture and fame.
The process to be nominated for a Grammy is a combination of both commercial success and luck that a portion of the over 12,000 member Record Academy committee will vote for the album, artist or song they feel most deserving of the award.
Rob Kenner, a voting member of the Recording Academy, explained that oftentimes, voters who are not as in tune with the music industry and new artists will simply vote for famous musicians they have already heard of, without ever considering if their music deserves an award.
Not only is there a lack of transparency, there is rampant racism in the Grammys nominations and awards process. Only ten Black artists have won an Album of the Year Award, with the last being Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters” in 2008. Black artists almost never win in the Big 4 categories (Album of The Year, Record of The Year, Song of The Year and Best New Artist).
People of color often get nominated for genre-specific categories only and when they do win in those categories, they are often not televised. Some of the most critically acclaimed, culturally important and famous musicians in history never won a Grammy, including Jimi Hendrix and Diana Ross. The Grammys does not celebrate or chronicle music over time nor support artists of color.
The Oscars is certainly not any better. In 2016, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, created by April Reign, brought attention to the lack of diversity in nominees and that all the nominees in the acting categories were white actors for the second year in a row.
As of 2016, only 6.4% of acting nominees at the Oscars had been non-white. The Oscars have become such a large focus of the film industry to the point where films become “buzz-worthy” because they could be contenders for Best Picture. Winners of Best Actor or Best Actress are often famous actors whose most well-known work was a previous film, but their first Oscar win comes much later as a sort of sentimental award.
My previous experiences watching award shows have been extremely painful. You must suffer through hours of red carpet appearances and awkward interviews before watching one or two quality performances interspersed with horrible jokes told by the hosts.
Award shows, at their core, strive to be exclusionary in every way possible. Only the richest, most famous and most well-known artists get to walk the red carpet. Should we continue to hope that at some point, award shows will restructure or replace old systems that continue to reward the same artists and ignore or diminish the accomplishments of Black artists?
Pondering these questions has led me to consider if award shows were to completely change their voting and nomination system, should we move forward by continuing to expect that there is only one Album of the Year or Best Picture that can be the best representative for all the music or movies of a year?
Perhaps what I am getting at is, should we want to award a few dozen albums and songs to be the best of all for an entire year? Is art not supposed to be a personal and subjective experience that cannot be easily
What purpose does awarding Ed Sheeran Grammys serve, besides giving him more attention for consistently doing the minimum in the music industry?
I say this, not to support eliminating award shows, but to rethink the purpose they serve. I urge someone with influence in the industry to use the time, money and fame of these shows to give a platform to new artists who do not already have the following most of the nominees in a typical year might have.
Give them a platform to perform or feature their artwork. Use the money generated to donate to charities to support young artists or artists of color or artists who do not have any access to recording studios and cannot financially support pursuing art.
Do not throw away the attention these award shows receive, but redirect the attention. Show young people that their ability to succeed at being creative is not dictated by the Hollywood elite and that their voices and art is a valued and cherished part of the future.