The 2017 Grammy Awards have recently come under fire following the shows lack of overall commemoration to African American artists, with musicians like Beyonce, Anderson Paak, and more failing to win in the most major categories.
This controversy is not only propelled by the nominated music, but also the Grammys recent history of refining African American artists to their specific genres, instead of letting them win overall awards. R&B artist, Frank Ocean specifically pointed to 2015’s example of this, after responding to a Grammys producer who criticized his performance of the song “Forrest Gump” during 2013’s show.
“And you know what’s really not ‘great TV’ guys? 1989 getting album of the year over To Pimp a Butterfly. Hands down one of the most faulty TV moments I’ve ever seen.” he said in a Tumblr note.
Those looking from a glance aren’t as embroiled in the controversy. For instance, some, including the Grammy’s CEO Neil Portnow, have used Chance the Rapper’s win as Best New Artist as proof that the Grammys still pays admiration music made by African Americans.
However, the introduction of the Urban Contemporary category has come under less defense.
While the award is meant to honor alternative and pop R&B genres, many have seen it as an excuse to give African American artists awards without having them win or be nominated in major honorary fields. Woodside High School junior and hip-hop fan Miguel Milla happened to give some word to this.
“I can see why it’s controversial, but I don’t think it has racist intentions. If the award is used in proper ways, then it could be highly positive.” said Miguel.
Nevertheless, these recent controversies don’t mean the Grammys are changing. Chance The Rapper was the first artist to win an award for albums/songs only available through streaming, a move that delighted many Woodside high school students, including Mason Moss.
“Chance’s 3 wins were a long time in the making, since his mixtapes were becoming more and more popular. He’s simply the catalyst for opening more doors of influence for independent artists,” Mason said.
Chance The Rappers win was even more spectacular when you look at those who typically win Best New Artist, an award that’s more influenced by song sales than any other in the show(After all, the award is meant to be given to an artist with a recently developed public identity). Previous winners have included Macklemore, Sam Smith, and Meghan Trainor, who all achieved a top 5 single at some point in their career (Chance hasn’t so far).
With these barriers now broken, it’s easy to see why some consider Chance’s win as more important for independent music, than music developed by African Americans. Praise may continue towards this regard, but the Grammys may have simply found a way to circumvent controversy into something more positive. In fact, those who are fond of Chance’s win can identify how he was able to capture such a high honor, while lacking sales or wider popularity.
“Personally, I think it was a win for independent music. Chance has a style that’s pretty identifiable and respectful, creating a better message in general,” fan Justin Swan said.