The Grammys have always been seen as one of the most prestigious music awards an artist can receive, as many consider even getting nominated to be a career-high achievement. However, some of its questionable winners and nominations recently have made people think, perhaps, its importance has been inflated. Who can forget in 2014 when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist won Rap Album of the Year over Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Or, even in 2008, when a cover album, River: The Joni Letters by Herbie Hancock, won Album of the Year over an Amy Winehouse classic in Back to Back or Kanye West’s Graduation. At least those albums were nominated for the awards which they deserved. However, recently, the Recording Academy took it upon themselves to eliminate one of the most popular and acclaimed albums of this year, After Hours by The Weeknd, from the 10 categories for which he submitted the album and its singles.
After Hours not being nominated for any award came to a surprise to fans, critics, and The Weeknd himself. After Hours was submitted for Album of the Year and Best Progressive R&B Album, while “Blinding Lights” was submitted for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video; these are categories that either the album or single definitely qualified for.
The fact that the Grammys have been considered a sort of popularity contest in the past years has gotten people, including me, angry. A popular album will usually get the award over other albums that have been critically acclaimed but not as popular. However, in this case, not only did After Hours reach the numbers of a popular album worldwide — in its first week it was streamed over 220 million times, selling 275,000 copies as a full album — but it was also one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. The album received a score of 80 on Metacritic, a user score of 8.7, and a 7.9 star rating from Pitchfork, showing how highly people thought of the album both critically and casually.
Fans angrily turned to social media to express their disappointment to the Grammys about After Hours being snubbed. Surprisingly, The Weeknd himself had something to say. The Toronto native called out the Grammys, accusing them of bias and asking for an explanation on how exactly they chose to not consider his record for a single award, stating: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”
Recording Academy Interim President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. spoke on the matter in an interview with Variety, stating that there was no “hidden agenda” behind this. He further stated, “In every year you only have a certain amount of people you can nominate for each category. There’s no ‘let’s snub this person’ or that person. It’s about ‘Let’s try [to] find excellence.’ Also, you have to remember that committee can’t vote on something that’s not there.”
While he did say there was no hidden agenda behind not giving The Weekend any nominations, many think differently. The Weeknd recently announced that he would be performing in this season’s Super Bowl in February (if football isn’t shut down due to the pandemic). According to TMZ, The Weeknd had also been in talks to perform at this year’s Grammys, but was given an ultimatum. Apparently, The Weeknd’s team had been working with Grammy representatives for weeks to work out a deal in which he would be able to perform at both events, but was told to choose “us or Super Bowl LV.” In the end, both parties were able to strike up a deal, but TMZ speculated that it didn’t happen without things getting testy. This in turn led to the belief that this affected The Weeknd’s chances of being nominated.
The Weeknd tweeted the day after the release of the list of nominations, “Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” This led to many believing that The Weeknd would not perform at the Grammys, let alone even show up to this year’s show if an audience is allowed to attend.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t surprise me that this snub happened, though I didn’t think it would happen to such a big star like The Weeknd. The quality, for me, of the Grammy awards has gone down. The process of how nominations and winners work is a complete mystery to many, and we don’t really know who, exactly, chooses the winners; it all is done behind closed doors. Even with the revisions that occurred in 2017 to accommodate newer types of genres of music, it did not seem to do justice in this case. Whether the Grammys have a hidden agenda in deciding who wins remains up in the air to decide, but after seeing this incident, it’s looking more and more like a hidden agenda is emerging.
Featured Photo Courtesy of USA Today