The Grammys Come up Short on Representation, Honor Billie Eilish

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday. Some stars walked the red carpet in wildly ornate costumes (see Billy Porter and his hat), while other stars opted for more subdued fashion statements (see Lana Del Rey and her mall-bought dress).

18-year-old Billie Eilish made history by winning across all four major categories, and Tyler, the Creator made headlines by calling out the Grammys for forcing black men’s music into the genre of rap. While the Grammys are the biggest awards ceremony in music, this year’s show can be described with one word: disappointing.

Although 18.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the award show, viewership has been on the steady decline, hitting a record low of 17.18 million people since 2008. The majority of media coverage with regard to the Grammys is either criticizing the show or commenting on the clothes worn by various celebrities on the red carpet.

In an article for CNN titled “Grammy Ratings Decline But Still Score Relative to Other Entertainment Shows,” author Brian Lowry notes this year’s Grammys pulled in similar ratings to other award shows. This marks a decline in ratings across the board for entertainment awards.

The decline in ratings and viewership may have something to do with issues within the Recording Academy. On Jan. 16, the Academy announced that its president Deborah Dugan would be placed on administrative leave. Dugan alleges that she was sexually harassed once she became president of the Recording Academy and that her wishes to increase diversity in the Academy were met with push-back. Dugan also alleges that her initiatives to keep the Academy current and political were shut down once she went on leave.

Another reason that the Grammys felt so blasé this year may be due to changes in genres and music trends. On Sunday night Tyler, the Creator won his first Grammy: Best Rap Album for “Igor.”

“It sucks that whenever we—and I mean guys that look like me—do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” Tyler, the Creator said in a backstage interview, before adding that the word urban is, “just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”

“Igor” is notably Tyler, the Creator’s least rap-like album. It’s far more experimental than any of his previous work and it draws on sounds brought to the music industry by indie artists. Tyler, the Creator went on to ask why his album couldn’t win in the pop category but was instead relegated to rap when it simply isn’t a rap record.

After Tyler, the Creator made his comments about the Recording Academy, thousands of fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment in the Academy’s treatment of Tyler, the Creator’s music. This marks a disconnect between how the Academy and the public value black artists’ music.

The one truly exciting and memorable moment from the Grammys was Billie Eilish’s historic series of wins. At just 18 years old, Eilish became the second artist ever to bring home best new artist, record of the year, album of the year and song of the year. This is quite a feat considering Eilish’s age and the anti- pop quality of her music.

Other than issues with the Recording Academy, this year’s Grammys were cursed with bad timing. On the morning of Jan. 26, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a tragic helicopter crash, along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people. Needless to say, the death of such a legendary public figure cast a somber mood over the night’s festivities at Staples Center, where Bryant played with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Aside from the untimely death of Bryant and his daughter, the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards also got underway as President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began in the Senate. Trump’s impeachment is only the third presidential impeachment in United States history and consequently drew attention away from the awards ceremony.

While the Grammys cannot be held responsible for national media quakes, the awards ceremony can be held responsible for some of the issues that plagued the 62nd Grammy Awards. As demonstrated by Tyler, the Creator, the Recording Academy remains unwilling to award black artists outside of set categories. Deborah Dugan’s allegations show that the Academy remains set in its ways. If the Recording Academy doesn’t find a way to revitalize the Grammys, the annual ceremony may be on its last legs.

Lara may be reached at [email protected]