The Grammys announced a number of changes to its annual awards program in an effort to be more inclusive as part of its “commitment to evolve with the musical landscape”. These changes come in response to ongoing protest against police brutality and the death of Geroge Floyd which have challenged businesses to modify and repeal controversial policies.
What We Know:
- This week the Recording Academy announced nine key changes to its awards and nomination process. Interim President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said that these changes are made to allow for more inclusivity and better reflect “the current state of the music industry”.
- Among the changes, the category that was formally titled Best Urban Contemporary Album has been renamed to Best Progressive R&B Album. The decision to remove the term “urban” from the category title comes from criticism in recent years that the term generalizes language for music from black artists. Kehinde Andrews, a British academic specializing in Black Studies, previously told The Guardian, “not only is urban an obviously wrong category, but it is also born out of racial stereotyping of black communities”.
- Artist Tyler, The Creator has been outspoken in his criticism of the term, calling out the Academy after January’s award show, saying that using the word “urban” was a way for them to avoid including black artists in other genres. He later told reporters, “it sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything [innovative], they always put it in a rap or urban category”. He later shares his own personal attitude towards the term, saying “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word, it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me”.
- According to the Academy, the category is “intended to highlight albums that include the more progressive elements of R&B and may include samples and elements of hip-hop, rap, dance, and electronic music” as well as” incorporate production elements found in pop, euro-pop, country, rock, folk, and alternative”. The category was first introduced in 2013 with Frank Ocean claiming the initial prize. Other previous winners of the category include Beyoncé, The Weeknd, Pharrell Williams, and Lizzo.
- However, the term urban is not being removed totally from the Grammys’ vocabulary and category titles as Best Latin Pop Album has now become Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, a change made to acknowledge “the broad spectrum of Latin pop music style and culture”.
- Republic Records, which houses artists like Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Arianna Grande, recently made the announcement that it will no longer use the term urban to describe musicians and genres, effective immediately, and encouraged the rest of the music industry to follow.
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- Other changes have been announced to “ensure that the Academy, and the music business, is truly representative of artists and their audiences” including additional name changes like Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album becoming Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album as well as renaming Best Rap/Sung Performance to Best Melodic Rap Performance. Additionally, there will no longer be a “maximum number of releases prohibiting artists from entering the Best New Artist category”.
- The 2020 Grammys were riddled with controversy with ousted CEO Deborah Dugan alleging that the board had a history of corruption and favoritism which often leaving deserving artists of color overlooked or ignored. In response, the new rules also require that new members of the Nominations Review Committee disclose any personal connections to prospective nominees before award consideration and they will then be asked to not participate in the nominations committee that year.
- In an effort to be more transparent, for the first time ever, the Recording Academy has made the official Grammy Awards Rulebook available on their website.
- All of these changes are expected to go into effect immediately. The release eligibility period for the 2021 Grammy Awards ends on August 31, 2020, and the ceremony will take place on January 31, 2021.
“Too often, our industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists, in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion” Mason acknowledged. The Recording Academy has promised to reevaluate their progress to better reflect the music industry to promoted inclusion.