Do You Care About the Grammys? (Kanye Doesn’t)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 4: Frank Ocean performs during the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Music Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on May 4, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/FilmMagic)

Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber, Kanye and Drake will reportedly not be attending the 2017 Grammy Awards. They supposedly find the Grammys “irrelevant.” Maybe this isn’t that big of a deal — plenty of celebs skip these shows — but with 20 nominations between the four of them, it feels like something. The Grammys are supposed to be a big deal. They’re the second-most-watched awards show after the Oscars, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Whatever with the VMAs, the Billboard Music Awards, the AMAs. I mean, no one is introducing artists as “The two-time MTV Video Music Award-nominated artist…”

But maybe that’s changing.

Ocean, who didn’t even submit his album Blonde for consideration, “thinks the Grammys are a dinosaur that doesn’t represent young, black artists,” according to TMZ. Bieber “just doesn’t think the Grammys are relevant or representative, especially when it comes to young singers.” Drake will be on tour. As for Kanye, his absence isn’t shocking. He’s been outspoken about his distaste for the Grammys in the past:

Apparently all of them find the establishment to be dated. (The establishment to whom, it ought to be noted, three out of four submitted their albums for recognition.) “There’s no real anger,” reports TMZ. “It’s just that a lot of younger singers think the Grammys are out of touch and arguably irrelevant.”

Everyone in the media knows that apathy is worse than anger. Shade thrown.

Is it that awards shows have failed to be the beacon of social progress we so badly wish they would be? Because the establishment in general is falling out of favor in music? (Chance the Rapper’s notorious and heralded refusal to sign with a label springs to mind). The Grammys have historically been subject to less scrutiny when it comes to diversity (see: Forbes’ favorable comparison of them to the Oscars) although they’re certainly not immune. Rolling Stone, The New York TimesSlate and Salon have all reported on Grammy diversity issues in the past couple years.

“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” Ocean told the Times late last year, on why he didn’t submit his music to the Grammys and wasn’t planning to attend. “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”

We’ve been talking so much about awards shows getting better at honoring a broader diversity of talent, but maybe Ocean, West, Drake and Bieber are making the right move. Maybe deeming these establishments irrelevant — abandoning them, even — is more powerful than admonishing them. Are these shows important? Do you watch them?

Photo by Tyler Kaufman for FilmMagic via Getty Images.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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