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Second Take: Grammy Awards fail to provide adequate representation for global artists

(Katelyn Dang/Illustrations director)

By Sandra Ocampo

March 4, 2022 7:26 p.m.

This post was updated March 30 at 11:49 p.m.

Like a broken record, the Grammys nominated the same old tunes.

The Recording Academy announced this year’s Grammy nominations with a notable absence of the global artists who are rocking today’s charts. Most of these nominations are a part of the global music field, which remains one of the scarce chances for international artists to hold the coveted gold-plated gramophone. The field shed its previous name of world music after the Recording Academy decided that the former title held non-American connotations and the new title promoted a more inclusive ideology.

Yet, a large chunk of the globe was not represented. Grammy-Award-winning producer Ian Brennan mapped out the history of the world music field for The Guardian in 2021, concluding that six countries represented two-thirds of the nominations and out of all global nominations, only artists from 12 countries have earned the accolade. The field is also notorious for repeat nominations, having also nominated artists who have already received them one or multiple times before.

And this year, history repeated itself.

Almost all 2022 nominees were previously nominated in the global music field. Three of those artists – Angélique Kidjo, Femi Kuti and Wizkid – were nominated in both the Best Global Music Album and Global Music Performance categories and did not appear elsewhere on the list. This lack of inclusivity snubs international artists from receiving well-deserved accolades for their work, while leaving little to no room to recognize new talent.

Of these international artists, Latin artists are represented the most, with five categories for their music. But these categories act as barriers from the larger, more highly coveted general field categories, in spite of such artists’ worldwide popularity. Although the Latin field delivers a sense of recognition for the artists’ work, these accolades can be considered a hindrance when the artists are unable to break out of the field, pigeonholing their potential to constricted accolades.

The current Latin music landscape predominantly features trap and reggaeton artist Bad Bunny, who continues his reign as the most streamed artist on Spotify since 2020. Obtaining this prestige is no small feat, as the Spanish-language artist had to out-stream English-language giants, and this achievement reveals the desire of American audiences to diversify their playlists.

But in terms of Grammy accolades, Bad Bunny has received six nominations – and only won one award for Best Latin Pop or Urban Album with his record “YHLQMDLG.” His first and only general field nomination was in 2018 with “I Like It,” in collaboration with Cardi B and J Balvin. Yet, despite obtaining the No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100, the record did not receive Record Of The Year, which instead went to American hip-hop artist Childish Gambino for “This Is America.”

Other artists snubbed despite their international success include K-pop superstars BTS, who famously were not included in the 2020 cycle. The group’s 2019 album, “Map of the Soul: Persona,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and remained in this position for 26 nonconsecutive weeks. Consequently, BTS’ lack of nominations came as a shocking surprise in a year when the group outperformed its Western counterparts, including Beyoncé’s surprise live album “Homecoming,” in terms of album sales.

The lack of diversity at the Grammys is hardly a secret, and race has often been a point of contempt. The Grammys have a long history of bulking non-white talent into Urban – renamed to Progressive in 2020 – categories and smaller fields where they are “othered” in spite of their critical and commercial success. BTS is no exception this year, with its single “Butter” nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Though Billboard named the track the Song of the Summer, the Grammys missed the mark by excluding the single from the general field.

The constant lack of acknowledgment of music from international artists at American award shows does not reflect the reality of the mounting consumption of this genre of music. It is a stark comparison with the reality of American music labels adding more international artists to their rosters. With American audiences growing an insatiable appetite for global music, Latin music and K-pop will continue to rock their musical palettes.

And the Recording Academy should race to represent such popular music trends – or risk lagging behind.

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Sandra Ocampo
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