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Underrepresented: The Noticeable Absences at the 2018 Grammys

This year's Grammys raised some questions over the lack of representation of major music genres

5th Feb 2018

The only way you could have missed the highlights of this year’s Grammys was if you were hibernating on a remote island.

Every year the Grammys is an exciting time for Americans, but also the rest of the world to see the best dressed celebrities, performances and award acceptance speeches. This year was a special year, because the Grammys was celebrating 60 years since its establishment. However, we look at how far it has actually come over the years...

This year’s special winner was multi platinum selling artist Bruno Mars with his hit album and record entitled ‘24K Magic’. Bruno Mars also took away the award for the Song of the Year too with “That’s What I Like” and for best R&B performance and Best R&B Song.

He also managed to take home the award for Best R&B album and Best Engineered Album, Non Classical. Therefore, it is evident that Bruno stole the award show. Bruno’s much deserved success was great to see, but what was disappointing was despite there being so many different categories, there were no Afrobeats artists nominated. The only category that really represented the continent of Africa was Best World Music. Notably, Fuse ODG received a Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy for co-writing Ed Sheeran's 'Divide' album last year. This was a proud moment for Africa because of the evident lack of representation in this institution.

The conversation has been sparked by numerous African bloggers who have expressed their disappointment because they feel that the Grammys do not care about their people. Notable African absentees from the nomination lists included Wizkid, who could have been nominated for his smash single 'Come Closer' featuring Drake and also Davido who had a very strong year which included collaborations with international stars Young Thug and Rae Srummerd.

However, one thing that I feel is important to remember is that before the Grammys can work on including rising genres like Afrobeats, they need to also combat gender equality. It was evident on the news that a lot of high profile attendees arrive at the Grammys wearing white roses, which symbolised the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements which were also supported at The Golden Globes earlier this year. This was symbolic because 2017 marked a year where victims of sexual harassment in the industry were no longer silenced, but unified and took action. At 60 years old, it highlights that the Grammy’s has come a long way, yet it is still lacking representation in some areas.

There is definitely a level of frustration that comes with such a prestigious award ceremony. It has a long history of underrepresenting Hip Hop and despite it having a category that caters to artists of that genre there is still mistrust. Global superstar Drake, had a really successful year in 2017 with his No.1 playlist “More Life” that surpassed more than 1 billion U.S streams. He surprisingly declined to submit anything from the project for the Grammys consideration and commented on the racism and politics which goes on behind the scenes at award shows. As did Frank Ocean with his music from his 2016 releases Blonde and Endless. I feel that Frank’s statement to the New York Times highlights a frustration across the board not just about Hip-Hop, but Afrobeats and many other developing genres.

“That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.” – Frank Ocean

One can only hope that as time moves on the Grammys becomes more accepting and inclusive of these existing talents within Afrobeats particularly. The likes of Wizkid, Davido and Tekno have all signed to Sony. Thus, It should not be down to award ceremonies like BET to celebrate black excellence when artists such as Wizkid have created history over the past year. Wizkid became the first Afrobeats artist to perform at The Royal Albert Hall. Therefore, we can only hope that after all the backlash the Grammys have faced over their blatant absence of significant artists and genres that next year there is a major step forward.

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