Grammys' Pursuit of Good TV Is Racially Biased, Short-Sighted, and Lacking in Substance

All hail the queen of the Grammys.
All hail the queen of the Grammys.
Photo by Francis Specker/CBS

Did you tune into the Grammy's last night to get away from politics for a while?

If so, for the most part, you were in luck. Despite a red-carpet Trump ad courtesy of singer Joy Villa and a defiant, wall-shattering performance by A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, and Anderson Paak, Trump fatigue finally faded.

But the Grammys had their own set of politics.

Before the stars even hit the red carpet, Frank Ocean responded on his Tumblr page to Grammy producers, who had slammed his protest of this year's festivities. Ocean boycotted the awards show and withheld his acclaimed album Blonde from consideration, citing lack of recognition of black artists.

Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich and writer David Wild maligned Ocean's 2013 performance of "Forrest Gump," calling it "faulty" and saying they warned Ocean the video installation piece he had in mind would not make for "good TV."

Even Adele thought Beyoncé got robbed.
Even Adele thought Beyoncé got robbed.
Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS

They also suggested that the appropriate response from Ocean and other artists such as Kanye West, who have also criticized racial bias in the Grammys' selection process, would be to submit albums for consideration and accept offers to perform.

"If they're concerned about the representation of hip-hop on the show, they need to respond and say, 'Yeah, of course I want to do it,'" Ehrlich said.

First problem: Two older white men are telling a young black man what his response should be to the well-documented history of racial bias. Ehrlich and Wild stumbled precisely upon why the Grammys draw low ratings and mockery from the younger generation year after year.

The Grammys' pursuit of "good TV" is painfully transparent. It highlights how out of touch they are with modern musical innovators, who are invited to the party but rarely win.

As Ocean pointed out, Taylor Swift's 1989 last year beat Kendrick Lamar's Black Lives Matter-era opus To Pimp a Butterfly for Album of the Year. This year, even Adele knew her album 25 didn't deserve the award over Beyoncé's Lemonade. So, without Kanye available to crash the stage, she dedicated most of her acceptance speech to the robbed Queen Bey.

Can we get a mike check?
Can we get a mike check?
Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS

Beyoncé had earlier accepted an award for Best Urban Contemporary Album for Lemonade by noting that the visual album and her projects at large are efforts to advance black representation in the media.

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In their quest for "good TV," the Grammys prioritize spectacle over substance and quality. They ignore the significance of a young black man singing an ode to gay black love because it forgoes the bells and whistles. They put dancing groupies onstage for Metallica and melt the stage with pyro, but they can't get James Hetfield's mike to work.

Thankfully, there was Beyoncé, who went full deity for her medley of "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles."

Performing songs about fighting for your marriage through your husband's infidelity while you're pregnant with his twins: Now that's good TV.

Unfortunately, if the Grammys continue their track record of revering the past while missing the innovations of today's musical greats, they won't have her around much longer.


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