Oof. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! All of the takes I have had recently have stayed #showerthoughts, but my irritation with the upcoming Grammy Awards needs to manifest itself into words on the internet. It’ll be the subject of conversation for the next two TAKEs actually, with next week’s being my Grammy predictions (but only for the categories I have some kind of idea about). So here we are. The 2021 Grammys are about ten days away, and The Weeknd is nowhere in sight on the nominations list. I wanted to talk about this last year, but since we’re getting closer to Grammys time, now felt like the right time to air my grievances.
Anyone who has spent any time on the internet in the past year knows that The Weeknd has had a massively successful year. Almost a year ago (this is shocking news to me too), After Hours (2020) – The Weeknd’s fourth studio album – was released after months of teasing, a couple of singles in the form of “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless,” and the start of him spending an entire 365 days in a red suit jacket and black slacks. And if me hearing “Blinding Lights” and “Scared to Live” in Kroger every time I go shopping is any indication, the album was received incredibly well. The 56 minute-long project is the character of “The Weeknd” grown up and dealing with the consequences of all the long nights detailed in his previous projects. The stakes in this chapter are higher – both for the character of “The Weeknd” and for Abel. 2020 (into 2021) is Abel walking into his tenth year since the release of the Trilogy mixtapes (potentially with something to prove to himself and everyone else), and “The Weeknd” is starting to recognize (and feel) the consequences of the long nights and fleeting relationships with women described in songs like “The Morning,” “Kiss Land,” “Ordinary Life,” and “Life of the Party.” And Abel was able to acknowledge both amazingly well, but somehow with the rest of the world recognizing that work, the Grammys this year don’t give Weeks an opportunity to receive his flowers.
Allegedly, the Recording Academy felt slighted by The Weeknd deciding to perform at the 2021 Super Bowl, so some plans for him to also perform at the Grammys were canceled, and The Weeknd happened to also not receive any Grammy nominations despite all of the success he’s had in the last year. And we all collectively rolled our eyes and denounced the Grammys for the 100th time. It was a situation that not only exposed how the nomination process seems to not just be about the craft, but also brought back into the spotlight the inability of the Recording Academy to recognize when Black artists make music that’s not R&B or Rap. When they aren’t able to place a Black artist’s project neatly into “R&B” or “Rap,” they either don’t place it anywhere or they try to align it as much as they can with the other Black stuff.. This was clear as day in 2020 when Tyler the Creator took home the “Best Rap Album” award for IGOR (2019), an album with a single rap song. One. Towards the end of the project. Although Tyler leaned on a mix of sounds to create the project, they singularly placed the album in the “Rap” category based on who they thought Tyler was (and by extension what his music was) on an extremely surface level. Essentially, it felt like they didn’t even hear the project.
And he mentioned that slight in an interview after his win, along with how problematic the use of “urban” is when referring to Black art. And the RA’s response to that – which had been a subject of controversy for years prior – was to rename the “Best Urban Contemporary Album” category to “Best Progressive R&B Album,” which not only makes it even clearer that they can’t see Black music outside of “R&B” and “Rap,” but that they’re also not willing or able to let Blackness leak too heavily into other categories, and although they’re seen by many as the epitome of musical knowledge and standard, they have no concept of how to categorize music that sits on the fringes of multiple genres properly. While the Grammy awards are supposed to go to artists that revolutionize genres and push the music industry forward, the Grammys themselves have seen little evolution outside of the nixing of some categories; the mindset is still the same.
The 2021 Pop category has essentially no Black artist nominated for any award. After Hours should have been all up and through the Pop category AND all of the other “Song of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” “Album of the Year” categories. It’s currently sitting at over 4 BILLION listens on Spotify across its 14 tracks, and that doesn’t account for the billions of listens over YouTube, Apple Music, etc. And it hasn’t even been out for a year yet. But the mix of a Black artist advocating for himself so openly and the musical ambiguity of his project (to a certain extent, it’s still very much a Pop album – CLASSICALLY a Pop album) seemed to leave them with the easy choice to leave Abel off the nomination list and the ceremony as a whole.
My thoughts about this are all over the place, but the Grammys has and continues to be very suspect even when faced with the perfect opportunities to turn the page. They drop the ball every. single. time.
I have some more thoughts that are more fitting for next week, so I’ll save those and my Grammy predictions for next time. Until then ✌🏾
here’s something else you might like…
Well, here we are. After months and months of teasing and sneak peeking, Abel Tesfaye has finally dropped After Hours. I’ve already talked a little bit about how I was introduced to The Weeknd’s music, but allow me to do a quick recap. I had a crush on this guy in middle and high school … Continue reading First Listen #9: The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours’