Grammy nominees show improvement in award diversity


Grammy nominees show improvement in award diversity

By Ariana Portalatin

Since the Grammys’ Album of the Year award was first offered, 10 black artists have won the award: Stevie Wonder in 1974, 1975 and 1977; Michael Jackson in 1984; Lionel Richie in 1985; Quincy Jones in 1991; Natalie Cole in 1992; Whitney Houston in 1994; Lauryn Hill
in 1999; Outkast in 2004; Ray Charles in 2005; and Herbie Hancock in 2008. The problem with this number is that it has been 58 years since the award was created in 1959, and the black winners can be counted on both hands. But we are finally seeing progress.

The 2018 Grammy nominations were announced Nov. 28, and for the first time, no white men were nominated for the Album of the Year award. The nominees include Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars and Lorde, the only white female artist. The Record of the
 Year award shares the same progress,
with Justin Bieber the only white artist nominated for his feature credit on Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito.” The song also marks the first time a Spanish-language song has been nominated for both Record and Song of the Year.

This is a huge step forward for an awards ceremony that has been criticized for racial bias and ignoring minority artists.

After artist Adele said she could not accept her Album of the Year award
 over Beyoncé during the February 2017 ceremony, there was an uproar over how the winners are selected. In response, Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said the 14,000 voting members of the academy “almost put a blindfold on” when they listen to the nominated albums, but many critics were unconvinced. We are all aware of Beyoncé’s popularity and influence as an artist, but after being nominated for Album of the Year four times, she has yet to win the prestigious award.

People outside the Recording Academy have long recognized the diversity shortfall, but Portnow is just now catching up. The diversity can mostly be attributed to recent changes in the voting process. This is the first year the academy has offered online voting capabilities and 
the Grammys’ online platform was also revamped, allowing more accessibility for the current 13,000 members to cast their votes while also facilitating the application process to become voting members.

Music journalist Micah Singleton wrote in a Nov. 28 The Verge article: “If you’re a touring artist or a successful producer or songwriter, chances are you aren’t sitting at home waiting for a ballot to come in the mail, which is how the Grammys have been run up until this year. Now that more people have the ability to vote, we see the results: a far more diverse field, especially in the top categories.”

Although Portnow previously defended the voting members, he told Billboard Nov. 28 that he was impressed by the nominations, partially due to efforts to diversify voting membership. He said they were “a wonderful reflection on [his] organization and how relevant, and in touch and savvy our voting members are.”

The diversification of Grammy nominees is long overdue, and it is about time minority artists receive the recognition they deserve. Although many white artists have produced award-worthy music, minority artists have stacked up with their own music and unfortunately not seen the warranted appreciation. This year’s diversity and new voting efforts have the power to pave the way for greater representation in award categories. It is important that efforts continue to diversify awards ceremonies and the music industry as a whole.