This weekend, the 63rd annual Grammy Awards are moving forward, COVID or no COVID, promising the usual mix of flashy histrionics, interesting performances and baffling awards choices. That last bit has become an increasing point of contention in recent years, as the Grammys have come under fire for its unusual and frequently bizarre picks that have all too often slanted against women and people of color. Remember when Beck beat Beyonce? Remember when Macklemore beat Kendrick Lamar? Wild.
The Grammys secretive and baffling nomination process was under the microscope again this year when the Weeknd, whose Starboy was the biggest pop hit of the year with “Blinding Lights” shattering a handful of records, only to be snubbed entirely by the Grammys. Now, the Weeknd says he doesn’t plan on playing the Grammys game anymore. In a statement to the New York Times, the Weeknd said “Because of the secret committees I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
Those “secret committees” are the most controversial part of the Grammy process: a clandestine group of anonymous “music experts” who sort through the initial round of nominations of music professionals and determine which ones make the final cut. Grammy execs say this is a way to “preserve the integrity of the awards” which, OK. To most people, it just seems like a not particularly subtle way to subvert the will of the voters and make the ultimate call about who’s in and who’s out.
Whatever the Grammys say, the Weeknd is among a handful of the world’s most famous artists, so hit boycott carries real weight. Frank Ocean has also boycotted the Grammys and artists like Drake and Kanye West have been scathing in their rebukes of the Grammy nomination process, which means the institution as a whole is quickly approaching an “evolve or die” moment, if it hasn’t missed its chance already. The last Black artist to win album of the year was Herbie Hancock, with a tribute album for Joni Mitchell in 2008.
Whatever your feelings on the voting process, the performances have always been the real reason to tune into the Grammys, and this year will have some good ones. Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, BTS, Haim, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Da Baby, Harry Styles and Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s new outfit) are all on deck.
Beyoncé has nine nominations, and only needs to win eight of them to become the most awarded artist in Grammy history. If she gets four, she’ll become the winningest woman in Grammy history, beating out Allison Krause. Swift has six nominations, and could become the first woman to clinch three Album of the Year Grammys if Folklore takes it home. Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, Kaytranada and Megan will be fighting it out for Best New Artist.
The Grammys will air this Sunday on CBS and will be streaming on Paramount+.