Here's Why Your Favorite Artists Boycotted the 2019 Grammys

Last night, the 61st Annual Grammy Awards took place, hosted by Alicia Keys. What was supposed to be the biggest night in music history actually turned out to be more like that one girl’s Bat Mitzvah that no one went to besides the people her parents paid to go to it. That’s because much like the NFL, the Recording Academy has gotten more and more controversial, facing accusations of sexism and racism, so some people decided to sit out. Don’t we just love the drama?


So Why Do People Boycott?

The most notable people to boycott are the artists who feel most affected to it, rightfully so. Hip-hop artists are frequently used as promotional bait for the award ceremony, mainly as a way to get a younger and passionate demographic to tune into the award ceremony live so the Recording Academy can charge cat food companies even more money to run their ads during the commercial breaks.This is America. Which is why it’s no surprise that artists like Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Kendrick Lamar usually nab multiple nominations yet receive no love when it comes to the actual decision making. I’m sorry, but who in their right mind actually believes that 24K Magic is better album than Damn. or 4:44 besides wedding DJs?

Who Sat Out This Year?

This year, Childish Gambino, who won both Song of the Year and Record of the Year (the first rap win in either categories) chose not to show up at all. Kendrick Lamar and Drake also declined a performance slot and were expected not to show up until Drake I guess decided to Uber to the ceremony to pick up his trophy. He then basically give a Cady Heron-level speech about how fans are a better reflection of your success than a Grammy. It’s just plastic, after all. They quickly cut him off, but that’s fine, he probably had to go to In-N-Out with Millie Bobby Brown. (Are they still friends? What’s happening there?)

What the Recording Academy lacks in respect of people of color, they make up for in… also lacking respect for their female performers. Last year, Lorde’s Melodrama (an album whose lyrics I still drunk text exes with) was nominated for Album of The Year—the only female in the category. Not only was she the only female up for the nights biggest prize, but she was the only nominee not asked to perform during the ceremony; instead asked to just contribute in a tribute medley. For those unfamiliar with the award ceremony, that’s basically like being in the group chat about brunch and only being asked to meet at the McDonald’s you go to after getting so drunk at brunch you need another meal. A nice gesture, but not fair at all.

The Grammys also came under major fire when Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said that female artists need to “step up” if they want to be considered for awards. So…Beyoncé, Cardi, Nicki, Taylor, and Ari…need to step up? Got it. Portnow’s words were clearly not forgotten considering Dua Lipa subtly referenced the line, saying, “I guess we really stepped up this year” during her acceptance speech for best new artist. Why do I feel like it’s the Grammys that stepped up, and not the other way around?

But Where Was Ariana Grande?

While the Grammys did nominate fifteen women for the big four categories this year as opposed to last year’s six, it seems the Academy still hasn’t learned all their lessons. Ariana Grande—who was expected to (and ultimately did) win her first Grammy last night—was in talks to perform but backed out. Ken Ehrlich, long-time producer for the Grammys, wanted to tell her what songs to sing, because there’s nothing old rich guys love more to do than telling talented women how to do their jobs. I guess we didn’t get the theme of Ariana’s new album because uh, thank u, next to that gesture. This f*ck up cost them truly the biggest star in the world right now from performing on their stage, which they basically promised since the nominees were announced. This is basically like promising to bring Grey Goose to the pregame and you show up with Everclear, if that Everclear was named Bebe Rexha.

Did They Do Better This Year?

Oh, and if you think the Grammy’s didn’t want to try and find another way to piss people off, you’re wrong, because they had J.Lo as the performer to honor Motown…during Black History Month…with Janelle Monáe sitting right there. I’m not sure why we still let old white men choose anything other than what flavor of tapioca pudding they want for lunch at this point. This decision clearly left fans of Motown angry, because as Gaga would say, there are about a hundred people in that room…who are talented singers of color that could have performed that medley. Actually, maybe not one-hundred, because most of them boycotted the show to pinpoint its racism anyway.

We’ll see what the Grammys decide to bring next year: will they learn from their mistakes, or will they ask Carrie Underwood to honor Ray Charles? Only time and more tweets from Ariana Grande will tell.

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Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy is a comedian and writer who lives, laughs, and gets his credit card declined in New York. His writing appears in Glamour, Marie Claire & Cosmopolitan and he performs standup wherever people will let him shout at them.