The Grammy Awards’ diversity problem has been making its presence known for quite a while. In 2014, Macklemore publicly apologized to Kendrick Lamar when The Heist won the award for Best Rap Album over Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. In 2015, Beck’s unassuming record Morning Phase won over Beyoncé’s self-titled record for Album of the Year, shocking many. In 2016, Taylor Swift's 1989 won Album of the Year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, a record that stands as one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 21st century.
However, last year’s Grammy Awards saw the controversy reach a peak, as Adele’s 25 won Album of the Year over Beyoncé’s Lemonade, a result that surprised even the winner of the award. In her acceptance speech, Adele expressed her love of Lemonade, even saying “I can’t possibly accept this award.” Moments like this and the rise of hashtags like “#OscarsSoWhite” and “#GrammySoWhite” show how much demand there is from the public for diverse representation in the few chances artists of all medium are given to be praised for their work.
With the nominations for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards announced, it seems that the people in charge have finally realized that some changes were needed.
The most obvious sign of the shift is in the Album of the Year category. In previous years, it was expected to see only one or two non-white artists nominated. This year, all but one artist is not white. In fact, it is the first time since 1999 that the Album of the Year category did not feature a white male artist. Albums from Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars make up the majority of the rap and R&B-heavy crop, with Lorde being the odd one out.
Jay-Z stands as the artist with the most nominations with nine, including the aforementioned Album of the Year, as well as Song of the Year and Best Rap Song, Performance and Album.
Categories such as Record of the Year and Best New Artist continue to show some signs of progress, as both are made up of nearly all non-white artists, with the exception of Julia Michaels in the latter category. SZA, who is nominated for Best New Artist, has the most nominations for a female artist with five, many of which come from the R&B category.
The attention being paid towards being more diverse is apparent. However, there are still areas where the adjustment is not as clear. The pop categories, while containing quite a bit of female representation, contrast the general categories quite starkly. The only non-white lead artist(s) are Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.
Though that may have to do more with the pop landscape of 2017 than the Grammys themselves. R&B and rap’s dominance of the Hot 100 has been taken to a whole new level this year. With so many new artists creating music of that style, the Academy has to rely on pop mainstays such as Lady Gaga, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson for its nominations.
The Rock categories face a very similar problem as their pop counterparts, though to a harsher degree. It has been quite a while since the last time rock music could be considered a formidable presence within mainstream music. With this stagnation inside mainstream rock, the Grammys are left to nominate already established groups that make for safe picks (Foo Fighters, Metallica) and newer artists that may have some recent success, but lack notoriety outside of their niches (Nothing More, K. Flay).
Many of the people of color and women in rock music are not on the same tier of popularity as a band like the Foo Fighters, so there is much less chance for those groups to be nominated unless the Grammys are willing to exceed expectations and nominate more underground bands.
However, taking into consideration the overall efforts made, the Grammys took a step in the right direction with this set of nominations. It may have been a long time coming, but hopefully this is a sign of permanent change and not just a consolation prize for the years of denouncing the Recording Academy for being unable to keep up with the times.