New Grammys ceremony, same diversity issues

By Managing Editor

With the 58th annual Grammy Awards just a week away, Grammy fever is at an all-time high. Everyone from music industry professionals to news outlets like Rolling Stone and Billboard is weighing in on who deserves a win at the Feb. 15 ceremony.

In a Feb. 4 Billboard article, titled “Confessions of a Grammy Voter: Industry Heavyweights Share Their Predictions — and Gripes,” a pair of Grammy voters anonymously revealed their thoughts on the Grammy voting process, shedding light on—unsurprisingly—a series of flaws surrounding music’s biggest night.

The first voter—a 30-something male R&B and pop songwriter-producer who’s voted in the Grammys for 17 years—confessed a number of shortcomings in the voting process. Most notably, he admitted that the voting committee lacks diversity, revealed that music does not matter as much to Grammy voters as does an artist’s advocacy for and involvement with the Recording Academy and lamented that categories like R&B are excluded from the main show.

The second voter—a 50-something male artist/manager and Grammy voter of 15 years—echoed many of the first voter’s concerns, emphasizing a need for Grammy reform.

According to the first voter, the voting bloc is “too white, too old and too male.” Although he admits that it has improved in terms of diversity in the past four years, he says there is “still a long way to go.”

Diversity issues are not exclusive to the Grammys. Amid criticism over a nearly all-white roster of actor nominees for the 2016 Oscars ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a long-term plan to ensure diversity among its leaders and voting members by the year 2020.

The Recording Academy should follow suit and take responsibility for improving the diversity of its leadership and voting members by developing a similar plan.

The exclusion of R&B from the main show is an insult to black musicians who predominantly created and influenced the genre. Usually the category’s awards are presented during the pre-show, which could stem from the lack of diversity within the Recording Academy.

This is troublesome, however, when taking into consideration that R&B/hip-hop artist LL Cool J will host the show for the fifth consecutive year and R&B/hip-hop artists like Miguel, John Legend and even Stevie Wonder are frequently invited to perform. 

The mostly-white Recording Academy is quick to invite diverse artists to entertain during their ceremonies but fails to appropriately and equally recognize their achievements by awarding them during the main show.

In the Billboard article, the second Grammy voter confesses that younger people in the industry are under-represented in the Grammys. This is problematic, as the music industry has evolved immensely in recent years, especially with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and YouTube. Older voters are out of touch with the current music industry because it is almost entirely different from the one in which they participated.

To accurately represent the current state of music and properly recognize talent that is deserving, it is necessary that the Recording Academy induct more diverse voters, including younger ones to keep up with music trends.