All The Artists Who Are Mad At The Grammys This Year
It’s that time of year again. The Grammys are here, and even while Music’s Biggest Night might be a little smaller than usual due to COVID precautions, somehow, even with a whole year to have become incredibly fatigued by virtual pseudo-ceremonies, a lot of people care about the Grammys. It’s like going home for Thanksgiving. You know this is gonna let you down the same as always, but you keep the tradition going because the universe is cold and uncaring and chaotic and it’s nice to have at least some things stay reliable, like that the Grammys will be awful.
Pandemic or no, it’s sort of unbelievable anyone cares this much, in any given year. Each time, it’s the same cycle: Everyone pays a lot of attention to the Grammy nominations and lead-up, everyone watches the event itself and complains about it, there might be one or good two moments, and then the next day we all talk about how much the Grammys fucked up again. This year will be no different, and yet it is the constant car crash none of us can look away from.
That’s especially true of musical artists, many of whom have already worked themselves up over real or perceived slights. There are a lot of people angry at the Grammys this year, for a whole lot of reasons. Hostility toward the institution feels like it’s reaching an all-time peak, yet the context for so much of that hostility is artists continuing to take the Grammys seriously. So, in order to celebrate another exhilarating weekend with the Recording Academy fumbling in the dark, let’s kick things off the only way we know how — by talking about how much the Grammys suck.
Compared to some of the other people we’ll soon talk about, Justin Bieber’s doing alright. He made a very forgettable album that I in fact had forgotten about until it was nominated for a Grammy. Bieber took some issue with that, writing on Instagram about how he made an R&B album, not a pop album: “I am very meticulous and intentional about my music. With that being said I set out to make an R&B album. Changes was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.” Nevertheless, Bieber remains honored to be nominated. Maybe it is a little crazy they didn’t find room for him in R&B because…
Teyana Taylor Calls Out The R&B Album Category, Which Is All Male Nominees
Yeah, this is not a good look.
This one was pretty strange: Presumably, the Weeknd was poised to receive a bunch of nominations after the massive success of “Blinding Lights” and the positive reception for After Hours. Then: Nothing. Completely shut out. Abel Tesfaye wasn’t too happy about that, and he took his feelings to his social accounts. There, he accused the Grammys of corruption, claiming that disagreements over his planned performance on the original Grammys date of 1/31 plus his Super Bowl performance led to him not getting nominated.
While famous rich people publicly bemoaning not getting nominated for a trophy is usually pretty tiresome, it’s hard to argue with the idea that the Weeknd was robbed. “Blinding Lights,” at the very least, remains a banger and one of the best pop hits in the last year. As of this week, it’s also the first single to ever spend a full year in the Hot 100 top 10 — the kind of massive industry success the Grammys tend to reward.
Tesfaye has since said that he will boycott the Grammys entirely going forward due to the anonymous expert committees that review the nominees and have final say on who makes the cut. “Because of the secret committees,” he said, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
Yeah, everyone else thought this was crazy too. And if me saying so in the previous blurb didn’t sway you, Sir Elton John also thought “Blinding Lights” was the Song Of The Year.
As for Drake, there you had one of the most popular artists of our time questioning the relevance of the whole Grammys enterprise. As he wrote in an Instagram story back in November: “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after.”
Feeling burnt as well, Halsey went into give-no-fucks mode, writing, “The Grammys are an elusive process. It can often be about behind the scenes private performances, knowing the right people, campaigning through the grapevine, with the right handshakes and ‘bribes’ that can be just ambiguous enough to pass as ‘not bribes.’ And if you get that far, it’s about committing to exclusive TV performances and making sure you help the Academy make their millions in advertising on the night of the show.”
Most of the Grammys actually get handed out rapid-fire at the Premiere Ceremony, an online telecast in the afternoon. Hosting it seems like a semi-thankless task, with half the job revolving around rushing attendees and winners so they can blitz through dozens and dozens of awards before the big televised Grammys everyone knows. This year, the Academy approached Tiffany Haddish, who could’ve actually made that clinical afternoon ceremony less of a slog. But while it’s normal for the hosts not to get paid, apparently they also expected Haddish to pay her way, i.e. cover her own costs for makeup and wardrobe and such. “I think it’s disrespectful,” she told Variety. “It’s like a guy asking you on a date but telling you that you have to pay for it.”
In this particular entry of Acting Grammys CEO Harvey Mason Jr.’s ongoing damage control efforts, he said the offer to Haddish “was a lapse in judgment. It was in poor taste.” Which, you know, seems to be a recurring theme here.
People are so annoyed with the Grammys this year that controversy has even spread to… the Children’s Album competition. It’s a legit grievance. Alastair Moock And Friends, the Okee Dokee Brothers, and Dog On Fleas all asked to withdraw from consideration based on the lack of diversity this year — only one woman was nominated, and no people of color — but also historically within the category. I can’t say I’m familiar with the history of the Children’s Album category, but yes this sounds like a problem the Grammys would have.
Unlike the Weeknd and, to a lesser extent, Halsey, Lil Wayne was not the subject of feverish Grammy speculation this year. Although his Funeral album and various singles were eligible for awards, he’s well beyond the prime of his career, both commercially and creatively speaking. This did not stop Weezy from musing on not being invited to the party in 2021. “Is it me, my musik, or just another technicality?” he wrote on Twitter. “I look around w respect & wonder competitively am I not worthy?!” He seemed to take it in stride, though; his comments ended with an acknowledgement of past Grammy wins and a remark about getting back to work.
“Not to go back to that word, but it’s bullshit,” Fiona Apple told The Guardian in December. Perhaps, ever since that iconic moment at the 1997 VMAs, you can assume this is how Apple feels about awards shows and other big industry mechanisms. Here, she was specifically referring to the Grammys nominating Dr. Luke after also having Kesha, who accused him of rape and other abuse, perform her Dr. Luke rebuke “Praying” in 2018. The Grammys throwing Luke a nomination (for work under his Tyson Trax pseudonym) isn’t all that shocking given the industry’s attempts to brush everything aside and keep the producer around. But of course Apple’s correct that it’s a gross and unnerving element of this year’s Grammys — especially when, otherwise, she was eager to celebrate the artists she was nominated alongside for Best Rock Performance, a category that comprises all women this year.
This year, not only have the Grammys pissed off a bunch of musical artists, they’ve alienated a whole other awards ceremony. When the Grammys postponed from January, they wound up picking the same date as the Screen Actors Guild Awards. In a statement given to Variety in January, SAG-AFTRA said they were “extremely disappointed” in the decision. “We announced the same date for the SAG Awards last July with the intent to give the greatest possible scheduling consideration for other awards shows,” the statement read. “We expect the same consideration from sister organizations throughout the industry.”
SAG-AFTRA, don’t you know the Grammys don’t consider anyone or anything but their own bloated spectacle? Not the artists, not representing the music landscape as it actually is in the real world. Certainly not people like me, music writers who never did anything to the Grammys and yet have to deal with their bullshit every year. The Grammys exist to ruin everything. That’s their whole thing!
That’s right, Zayn, fuck ’em.
The former One Direction member echoed some of what other artists have said this year, talking about the backroom dealing involved with the Grammys. “Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations. Next year I’ll send you a basket of confectionary,” he tweeted, not even a week before this year’s ceremony. Now… Zayn’s new album wasn’t actually eligible for the Grammys this year because the cutoff date was Aug. 31, 2020. Even so, the sentiment is evergreen!
Anyway, here’s Kanye pissing on a Grammy back in September.