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Do we still care about the Grammys?

There are valid concerns around the Grammys being racist. But racist or not, there's an undeniable symbiotic relationship that translates in sales between the awards, the artists and the fans
Thu, Mar 11, 2021

The 63rd Grammys take place in the wee hours of Monday, and whichever way you slice it, people still care more than they are willing to let on. That’s because in recent years we have been told by big-name stars, who have been snubbed for what they believed they deserved, that these things don’t matter – only for them to pitch up on the same red carpet to soak up the attention the ceremony brings.

The suspicion goes back decades. I was barely two years old when Will Smith reportedly voiced his displeasure at rap being a mere afterthought at the Grammys. At different stages, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Salt-N-Pepa boycotted the awards over the same issue.

One example was the 2002 Grammys where three of the four rap awards were handed out before the live show – meaning fans of hip-hop never got to see faves, OutKast accept their award for Ms. Jackson, or Missy Elliot for Get Ur Freak On, and even Eve and Gwen Stefani for Let Me Blow Ya Mind.

The cynicism (and even incredulity) still lingers – we will never know how Rihanna's Anti won 0/8 at the 2017 Grammys, or how the voting members (the makeup of that list requires another piece altogether) needed Adele or Macklemore to point out what everyone else saw: there were more deserving works released in that period, specifically by Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar respectively.

The most recent example was The Weeknd's disgruntlement after receiving zero nominations for his hit album After Hours. The Weeknd told Billboard: "If you were like, 'Do you think the Grammys are racist?' I think the only real answer is that in the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won album of the year. I don't want to make this about me. That's just a fact."

Hence the skepticism, especially from the younger generation, around these awards.

But let's be honest: not waking up for the live broadcast at 3am SA time does not mean much other than the fact that the show is too long and the most popular gongs are handed out during the final quarter of the broadcast anyway. Not to mention that people are too fatigued to be involved in more tormenting Zoom meetings (anyone watched the shambolic Golden Globe Awards broadcast?).

Best believe, though, by the time they arrive at the office, they would have checked for the winners and the countdown of the best performances. Will Billie Eilish claim Record of the Year for a second time in as many years (and beat two Beyonce entries) or will it be Englishwoman Dua Lipa's turn to sweep the ceremony a la Amy Winehouse (2008) and Adele (2017), or will Taylor Swift ruin her party? How will Best New Artist nominee Megan Thee Stallion fare?

For while there's definitely a feeling of distrust and even injustice attached to the Grammys season, there's a recognition that artists and the recording academy need each other. Therefore, they must make the Grammys (often referred to as "music's biggest night") work.

There's a sense of pride, too, attached to seeing our own do well on that stage – if you're African, you will be watching to see how Trevor Noah does as first-time host, or whether Burna Boy will claim a win.

Finally, the Grammys sales bump is undeniable – the viewership numbers may have slid over the years, but a win or performance on that stage can have a tremendous impact on album and, in a different time, tour sales. You only have to look back at how many artists have launched new eras at the ceremony or announced tours immediately after.

At the 2018 Grammy Awards sales of the songs performed there saw a collective 328% bump in US download sales on the day of the show, according to reports. Similarly, in 2020, songs performed at the ceremony saw a sales growth by 266%.

We all care about the Grammys, even though we crave a more simpatico relationship.

  • The 2021 Grammy Awards, hosted by Trevor Noah, will be on 1Magic (DStv channel 103), Monday 15 March at 8.30pm. For the early birds (or insomniacs), the live broadcast will be 03am on Monday morning on 1Magic.