On Sunday, February 4th, the 66th Annual Grammy Awards took place at the Crypto.com arena in Los Angeles. Dubbed ‘Music’s Biggest Night of 2024,’ the event, hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, dazzled with stellar performances, glamorous fashion statements, and some more or less expected victories.
Who won at the Grammys 2024?
As one of the four major U.S.-American entertainment awards and one of the most essential music awards worldwide, the Grammys are an eagerly anticipated event for commercially successful artists each year. Once the nominations are announced, the global music scene counts the days left until the glamorous ceremony. Who will be attending? Who will be performing? And most importantly, who will be going home with a gold-plated gramophone and the prestigious ‘Best’ title in this year's top categories?
The 66th edition featured a total of 94 categories spanning a wide range of genres, from pop to country, jazz to R&B, rap to gospel, and even chamber and classical music. Recognizing not only the artists but also the producers and songwriters, the Grammys attempts to celebrate the multifaceted talent ‘behind the spotlight’ as well (at least to some extent). So, who were the standout stars this year?
There were no major surprises in the top categories, often called the Big Four. Miley Cyrus clinched her first Grammy Awards with the song Flowers, including Record of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Billie Eilish’s ‘What Was I Made For’ from the Motion Picture Barbie then claimed the title of Song Of The Year.
After an exceptional year in 2023, Taylor Swift turned the Grammys into another of her starry nights. Her 2022 album ‘Midnights’ garnered not one but two Grammys — Best Pop Album and, most importantly, Album of the Year. This accomplishment allowed Swift to rewrite history once again, as she became the first artist ever to win Best Album of the Year four times.
Furthermore, Victoria Monét was finally rewarded for her critically acclaimed album Jaguar II, walking away with the Best New Artist and Best R&B Album Awards. SZA, the artist with the most nominations this year, earned three awards, including Best R&B Song, Best Progressive R&B Album, and Best Duo/Group Pop Performance.
The indie supergroup Boygenius also celebrated a triumphant evening, taking home three trophies: Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song. Meanwhile, the American band Paramore achieved a historic milestone, becoming the first women-fronted band ever to claim Rock Album of the Year with their release ‘This Is Why.’
As for the masterminds behind the production and songwriting, Jack Antonoff was crowned Producer of the Year for the third time in a row (for ‘Midnights’ by Taylor Swift or ‘Being Funny in A Foreign Language’ by 1975), while Theron Thomas earned his first Grammy for Songwriter of the Year (for ‘Been Thinking’ by Tyla or ‘You and I’ by Sekou).
Curious about the other winners? For a comprehensive list of all nominated and awarded artists, visit the official Grammys’ website.
Grammys are continuously facing backlash.
Despite some remarkable feats over the past few years, particularly in tackling the underrepresentation of women, the Grammy Awards continue to face backlash from the wider music community.
For one, the Grammys have had a major problem with global diversity. As reminded by a Guardian article from 2021 written by a Grammy-winning producer Ian Brenner, the only international category that truly holds space for musicians outside the English and Spanish-speaking worlds is Global Music (previously known as World Music). According to the article, in the back then 38-year-long history of the World Music category, nearly two-thirds of all nominees have come from 6 countries only: the US, UK, Mali, South Africa, India, and Brazil.
On top of that, it frequently shows the same artists nominated repeatedly, making the category seem even less inclusive. In fact, the article has indicated that 23 out of 37 winners in the World Music category had won a Grammy before, with two bands having been nominated a total of 21 times between them. Moreover, only 5.8% of global nations have had an artist win the category; no Eastern or Eastern European has ever won (and only one performer, from Bulgaria, has ever been nominated); and only one single East, Central, or Southeast Asia-based musician has ever received the Award for the category.
Even more significantly, the Recording Academy has had a deep issue with race, having been accused of racial bias, most notably of excluding non-white artists. In 2019, the Grammys were accused of racism and xenophobia after the K-pop band BTS didn’t receive a single nomination at the 62nd Awards. More recently, the work of Canadian musician The Weeknd has been repeatedly excluded from award nominations despite both the commercial success and critical acclaim of his albums After Hours and Dawn FM.
The lack of recognition of Black artists is deeply ingrained in the foundation of the Recording Academy. Since the Grammys’ inception in 1957, only 11 Black artists have won Album of the Year (further AOTY), the most prestigious award of all, and only 26.7% of them were nominated for the Big Four between 2012 and 2020.
As Jay-Z noted during his acceptance speech of his Dr.Dre recognition award at this year’s ceremony, Beyonce has won the most Grammy nominations in the Awards history but never won the AOTY. This raises many questions and reflects a significant issue in the industry.
The AOTY category is not only about whose album has been titled the best from a creative and artistic point of view. More importantly, it is about recognizing and rewarding the overall cultural impact the artist has had. Failing to recognize Beyoncé’s significance as a Black artist, although she has been nominated for the Award four times, is only the tip of the iceberg of how inadequate the recognition of Black artists, particularly Black women, continues to be. Especially, when considering that the last time a Black woman won the AOTY was in 1999 when Lauryn Hill won for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The Grammys have also been criticized for deliberately putting Black artists in the so-called ‘urban’ categories, such as rap, hip-hop, R&B, or any other category that people of color primarily dominate. As A.D. Carson, a professor of hip-hop at the University of Virginia, wrote in his Washington Post article, the act of confining Black artists to particular genres and nomination categories is a “trend of respected rap artists being overlooked in favor of those who crossed over into pop music and gained the most White fans.”
Despite the issues named above, not much has changed over the past few years. One part of the problem is undeniably racial bias. Another part of the problem perhaps lies in the voting system that often requires the members of the Recording Academy to vote for works in categories outside of their professional expertise. Or maybe it is the ‘unwritten rule’ to nominate works of art based on their popularity, commercial success, and name recognition instead of quality, talent, and critical acclaim.
What is relevant in the end, however, is the measures taken to actively and continuously fight the controversies. Without any changes, the Recording Academy will maintain the reputation of a ‘corrupt, White, and racist’ organization that is unable to recognize both the seen and hidden masterminds (and masterpieces) in contemporary music.
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