The Grammys 2021 – Controversy & Triumph

Julianne Dillon, Contributing Writer


To some, music is the spindle in which their everyday lives revolve. To others, music is an armchair to rest upon, or the antidote to lift them out of sadness or fatigue. Regardless, music is something everyone has a both strong and unique opinion on. 

Your music taste is just about as unique to you as anything else. Assuming this is true, who decides the greatest song of the year? At this year’s 63rd Grammys, Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted” was awarded best song of 2021 and Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” the best album of the year. While both undoubtedly outstanding and generally adored works of art by the public, controversy still surrounds the integrity of the award show. 

It’s fair to say criticism of the Grammys has been growing in pressure over the past year, with more people saying “Fuck the Grammys” now than ever. In fact, it’s a direct quote from Zayn Malik. He goes on to say, “I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of all.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time the secrecy behind the Grammys has been scrutinized by big artists. A recent article by the New York Times explains how behind the scenes of reputable award shows such as the Grammys, there have been “years of accusations of bias against women and Black artists, and complaints about an opaque voting system that critics say are unfair and out of touch”. In fairness to the Grammys, they are at least trying to do better to diversify their nominees than they have in the past. They’ve recently hired a diversity officer and elected more women and POC into leadership positions within their clandestine voting committee and staff.  

Additionally, it’s easy to question the relevance of an award show during a global pandemic. As we tune in to watch champagne pop and celebrities walk across the carpet wearing jewels worth more than we can comprehend, it’s important to ask: what for? Meanwhile, millions of lives have been lost in the past year due to COVID-19. 

However, I believe music has been a source of strength and solace to most people during these uncertain and confusing times – therefore, the celebration of great minds and musicians is in some ways the kind of light-hearted positivity we all need. Watching deserving artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Fiona Apple, and The Strokes win an award was a personal highlight of mine. Even having Phoebe Bridgers nominated was a highlight within itself, showing that the academy can appreciate lesser-known artists that still have music of outstanding quality and craftsmanship.  

The night undoubtedly belonged to none other than Megan Thee Stallion. Only a few short years ago in 2016, the rapper was making SoundCloud music as a college student. It’s undeniable that she’s grown massively as an artist since then, with songs like “Savage” and “WAP” culturally defining the past year. Despite the record of the year award going to Billie Eilish instead, Megan still deservingly won three other awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance. Megan’s performance was not only wildly outstanding with an undeniably bold charisma, it was a performance that spoke loudly in the historically conservative space of CBS. Her performance was a vehement knock on the door for representation in the music industry. 

Where strong black women can be leaders in artistic movements and be role models for young women watching. In a space where female artists such as Nicki Minaj, SZA, and Cardi B have been snubbed far too many times, Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce (who just this year became the most awarded female of all time) are voices that knock louder on the door or representation and change, something the Grammys could use a lot more of.