Grammy Awards 2021: Still a Long Way to Go.

Cover Photo:
Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images.

How to fix an award show that, despite being the biggest in its range, gets increasingly problematic and controversial with each year? Would removing the word “urban” from the names of the categories help? Or maybe changing World Music to Global? It’s safe to say that the Recording Academy’s efforts didn’t bring the desired results as the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards have already made headlines and, once again, for all the wrong reasons.

It’s easy to get annoyed when your beloved artist or band goes home empty-handed. Grammy Awards, however, have been guilty of ignoring some of the most critically-acclaimed artists for longer than anyone can remember. At the 62nd Grammy Awards—described by some as a Billie Eilish tribute show—Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey both didn’t win any awards, even though their albums thank u, next and Norman Fucking Rockwell! made it to just about every end-of-year list and received nothing but fantastic reviews from the press. Like that wasn’t enough, a couple of months after the ceremony, the former Grammy boss Deborah Dugan filed a complaint, stating voting irregularities and silencing the instances of sexual harassment within the Recording Academy.

Obviously, not everyone can win. But if a body of work is exceptionally good, it’s likely to win in multiple categories. However, things start to look grim when we take a look at the statistics. According to Billboard, only 9% of artists nominated for an award in the last five years were women.

Another former Grammy head Neil Portnow offended many with the comments he made back in 2018, saying that women in the industry need to “step up” to receive more nominations. Portnow must be shaking his head now as, for the first time in history, the nominees for Best Rock Performance are all women. Grace Potter, HAIM, Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, Brittany Howard and Big Thief are the next year’s nominees and the fans couldn’t be any happier. At first, I thought the all-women line-up has been put together to recover from all the gender imbalance controversies. However, after looking at the nominated songs for the first time I completely changed my mind. The bar is really high. Hopefully, the award goes to either Grace Potter or Brittany Howard—they both managed to combine incredible vocal performances with nearly flawless production. Who do I think will win, though? The answer is HAIM. Their latest album, Women In Music Pt. III, received five-star ratings from most of the major publications, as well as the Best New Music title from Pitchfork.

After winning five awards last year, Billie Eilish strikes again as her stand-alone single ‘everything i wanted’ is nominated for three Grammy awards: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Her 2020 victory might have been brutal for many successful and hardworking A-listers but it’s a completely different story this year.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is a generation-defining album. Each and every element of the record, from the cutting-edge production to its remarkable lyrics, make it a very special one. ‘everything i wanted’ sounds like a rushed release, finalised to capitalise on the debut album’s commercial success. It’s a basic snoozefest, at least in comparison to some of the debut album’s best cuts.

It’s Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia that managed to produce some of this year’s biggest hits without sacrificing the artistry and creativity at the same time. ‘Don’t Start Now’ was the beginning of a new era for Lipa, both sonically and visually. She was one of the first artists to jump on the disco train this year and now she should be awarded for that with a Grammy for Record Of The Year.

The nominations for Song Of The Year look very similar to the record category. Beyoncé, Roddy Ricch, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, H.E.R, Billie Eilish and Julia Michaels are all nominated for the songs we know and love. Queen B’s ‘BLACK PARADE’ is among the tracks shortlisted in the category and has a big chance of winning, especially after her last album Lemonade was snubbed by the Grammys a few years back.

The Best Pop Solo Performance should definitely be won by Taylor Swift. ‘Cardigan’ is a magical track and one of strongest songwriting moments off folklore.

As every year, there have been some significant snubs, especially in the major categories. The Weeknd’s newest full-length LP After Hours didn’t receive a single nomination, despite being the most pre-added album in Apple Music’s history and getting a number one spot on the Billboard charts. After Hours not only received great reviews from critics and fans but also included one of the biggest songs of this year, ‘Blinding Lights’. The hit track, co-produced by the legendary Max Martin, peaked at number one in more than 30 countries. The music video won the VMA award for Video Of The Year and recently reached over 300 million views on YouTube. The singer, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, has been very vocal about the Grammy snub, stating: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”

Despite the promises of a better tomorrow, there’s still way too much to complain about. British pop artists, even if they get top marks from the American press, are constantly ignored. With two trendsetting, glitch-pop albums under her belt, Charli XCX is still yet to receive her first nomination as a lead artist. There are no signs of Jessie Ware or Rina Sawayama either. We can complain that Charli isn’t there, we can complain that Lady Gaga or Harry Styles only received two nominations, but completely excluding an artist who with their latest body of work achieved both critical and commercial success seems odd. Especially since The Grammys are meant to be accolades for artistic excellence.

On the other hand, Justin Bieber’s ‘Yummy’, Gen-Z music at its absolute worst, is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance. I’m afraid Grammys still have a long way to go.

Tom Leśniara is a second-year Media and Communication student and a freelance journalist. You can read more of his work, and about him, on his website.