What It Takes for Black Artists to Win Big at the Grammys

After a year of introspection—panels and listening forums on music industry inequity, diversity-increasing membership drives spearheaded by the Recording Academy’s Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion—there is widespread hope that the winners’ circle at this year’s Grammy Awards will be more reflective of the rich tapestry of voices that make up contemporary popular music. The 2019 show’s shortlists appear to be the result of successful activism, as the Recording Academy has implemented broader cultural mandates for inclusion. The “Big Four” General Field categories—Album, Song, and Record of the Year and Best New Artist—are full of women and artists of color from a wide array of genres. All told, half of the Record of the Year and Song of the Year nominees are black, and five out of the eight nominees for the headliner Album of the Year category are black as well. Women-led acts account for five of the eight nominations in each category for Song, Record, and Album of the Year, and for six of the eight noms in Best New Artist.

But upon closer examination of the black musicians, it becomes clear that their odds of winning may still be very long. This group, historically, is among the most-nominated in any given year, though General Field wins are few and far between. And the handful of black artists who have taken home General Field trophies often fit into a specific mold: They are perceived as individual auteurs, creators whose work stands alone, outside of the broader black mainstream. For black musicians to hoist a golden gramophone in one of these four categories, the Academy’s voters essentially have to be convinced that the work of these artists is excellent because of its singularity.

This sets up a fascinating contrast among many of the artists nominated in this year’s General Field, where more popular, straight-ahead hip-hop faces off against a trio of black concept albums from artists whose candidacies would seem to rely on a perception of holistic artistry. A win in a category like Album of the Year for the former—Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, Drake’s Scorpion, or (God help us) Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys—would be a major surprise, indicative of the Grammys’ growing acceptance of hip-hop. Meanwhile, the newcomer H.E.R.’s self-titled debut, Janelle Monáe’s Afrofuturist Dirty Computer, and the Kendrick Lamar–helmed soundtrack for Black Panther, all suggest broader narratives and themes. Monáe’s high-concept aesthetic (which includes

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture


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