It always strikes me just how divided the Grammy Award’s categories are compared to the Oscars, especially at this year’s honors.
Individual categories for hip hop records, pop vocal albums and even operatic recordings divide the art up into genres, making it more excusable to justify a choice outside of the popular mainstream for one of the overall categories of the evening (Record of the Year, Album of the Year) due to the popular choice’s win in its respective genre category. It’s basically the equivalent of the proposed “commercial film” category which was proposed and ultimately disregarded for this year’s Oscar ceremony.
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For years, Grammy voters have ignored hip hop and rap’s rising prominence in America’s musical culture in their overall categories, with only a few hip hop albums garnering the Album of the Year award and not much else.
Finally, Childish Gambino’s “This is America” received both the Record of the Year and Song of the Year honors at Sunday night’s ceremony, a breakthrough achievement for hip hop.
Granted, voters didn’t have much of a choice. Over half of the Record of the Year nominees, for example, were hip hop artists. The nomination of Brandy Carlile’s “The Joke” in this category almost seemed like a joke, as its lack of reaching the Billboard Hot 100 at all seems contrary to the nation’s opinions on music.
Elsewhere in the ceremony, Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour won the award for Album of the Year despite having no tracks nominated for Record or Song of the Year. While I appreciate the representation of a woman winner in this category and Musgrave’s work is fine, something seemed askew.
Perhaps part of this has to do with the expansion from five to eight nominees in the overall categories this year.
With a greater breadth of field, those partial to certain genres have to pick their favorite artist out of several nominated in it, whereas voters who despise hip hop can simply congregate their votes on the country or pop option and inflate that album’s influence. This is especially notable since “This is America” is not featured on an album and was only released as a single.
Rounding out the big four categories was a win for Dua Lipa in the Best New Artist category. She also took home hardware for her recording of “Electricity” with Silk City.
It will be interesting to see how the greater breadth of field impacts the Grammy Awards in the future, but for now it seems to not bring about a thorough catalyst for change.