Grammys Cause Controversy, Again

Years of bias continue to affect the outcome of the Grammys


“Harry Styles!” exclaimed ‘Grandma’ Reina, Harry Styles superfan and avid advocate for “Harry’s House.” Styles throws his hands to his face in a moment of surprise and joy. As Styles walks up to accept his shiny gramophone trophy, shouts can be heard from the crowd.

 But not all the screams directed at Styles were positive. 

 “Beyoncé should’ve won!” yelled a spectator from above as Styles accepted his Grammy for Album Of The Year. This is a phrase known all too well by Taylor Swift and her proclaimed fans, also known as “Swifties.” A similar incident happened at the 2009 VMA awards, when Kanye West interrupted Swift during her acceptance speech, also claiming that it was Beyoncé who deserved the award instead. 

 The negative outbursts about his win were not limited to his walk up to the stage. Styles has received criticism for his acceptance speech as well. 

 “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often,” said Styles in his acceptance speech, a comment that didn’t land well with viewers. Styles had just beat Beyoncé and many other talented artists. Beyoncé, despite her many accomplishments, has yet to win Album Of The Year after four nominations at the Grammys. 

 Many music fans took Styles’ speech at the Grammys as a display of his privilege as a white man. 

 “‘This doesn’t happen to people like me very often’ is the most white privilege-iest thing to ever be uttered at an awards show ever for all time,” wrote @samsanders on Twitter. 

 Others simply took it simply as a reference to the fact that his success originated from his “X-Factor” audition that Styles’ mom signed him up for when he was just sixteen.  

 Just under a week after the Grammys took place, Styles attended The Brit Awards where he won Artist of the Year. In his speech, Styles commented, “I’m really grateful for this, and I’m very aware of my privilege up here tonight, so this award is for Rina, Charli, Florence, Mabel, and Becky, thank you so much.” He had clearly seen the backlash against his previous speech and made a point to correct himself and highlight his female competitors.

 While Styles may have initially come across the wrong way, it’s apparent now that he meant no harm by his words. His personality on and off stage proves it. Styles quite literally lives by “Treat People With Kindness,” as it has become his slogan. But this doesn’t change the fact that his statement was insensitive. 

 Styles performed his hit single “As It Was” at the Grammys. He danced around in a glittery jumpsuit while spinning on a large turntable, which began spinning the wrong way. 

 Earlier that night, Beyoncé broke the record for the most Grammys, with a growing collection of 32 Grammys over the course of her career. Styles has obtained three Grammys so far. 

 So why isn’t 32 Grammys enough for her fans? Beyoncé was nominated for three of the four leading accolades: record, song, and album of the year. Yet she only succeeded in the R&B and dance categories. Perhaps the other winners were just better, but it seems bigger than that. 

 It’s no secret that the Grammys tend to lean towards white artists when it comes to the four major awards. The prime example is that a black woman has not won album of the year since Lauryn Hill in 1999. Many black musicians, including Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd have boycotted the Grammys due to an overall lack of recognition of black artists. 

 Tyler, The Creator has not boycotted the Grammys, but made a statement after winning Best Rap Album in 2020. He said the win felt like a “backhanded compliment,” and that he didn’t even consider his own album rap. 

 Even though these artists deserve recognition, that is not to say Styles isn’t deserving. “Harry’s House” could be considered the soundtrack of the year, with Styles’ “As It Was” topping the charts and being deemed Song Of The Summer by Spotify. Styles’ third solo album is a change of pace from his two previous albums, where Styles seems to be searching for his own sound after his ‘hiatus’ from the boy band One Direction. The pop and classic rock-esque elements from the previous albums are present, but this time the album is consistent. It flows and blends as you venture further into the music, in the end forming one cohesive, pleasant album. 

 Another controversial win was Bonnie Raitt receiving the Grammy for Song of the Year for her song “Just Like That.” Many music fans were confused by this pick, mainly because most of them didn’t know of the song’s existence at all, including myself. 

 “Just Like That” won despite running against current pop sensations like Adele, Lizzo, Harry Styles, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. 

 “I’m so surprised because they were massively talented, great tunes that represented tremendous excitement of the public, both in sales and in No. 1s and big smashing hits,” Raitt said about her fellow nominees in an interview after the show.

 This win follows a similar trend of older-sounding songs winning because of the academy’s voting panel. For example, Eric Clapton’s re-recording of “Layla” beat out Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1993. While “Layla” is a musically fantastic song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remains representative of the iconic 90’s grunge era. Further proof that the Grammys judges prefer the familiar sounds of the past.

 “I think that the Grammys are the same every year. There’s no diversity in who wins, and that’s deeply based on the fact that the panel of judges is just old people. We need younger people voting,” said Sophomore Abby Blumer. 

 In 2017, Adele also beat Beyoncé for album of the year. Adele directly apologized to Beyoncé in her speech, stating that “Lemonade” deserved the award. 

 And perhaps the most controversial Grammys’ decision ever: Macklemore winning best rap album over Kendrick Lamar in 2014. Fans were outraged at this decision; even Macklemore himself believed Lamar deserved the win. 

 What the Grammys lack is fresh insight. It’s safe to assume that the voting academy mainly consists of older people. These people like to stick with what’s comfortable for them, as shown above. Hence, white people who make classic sounds will almost always emerge triumphant in the four major categories. Louder, “uncomfortable” music will never win but instead, be boxed into non-major subcategories.