While everyone raged against Hollywood for the lack of representation and diversity in recognising cinematic accomplishments in film and television, one institution was getting away with the same thing: The Grammys, which released its 2018 nominee list this morning. Perhaps people are more likely to notice the problem with race in awards shows for acting because they're so front-loaded at the beginning of the year, but the Grammys have also had a pretty consistent problem with diversity. Let’s just say the Oscars isn't the only award show that is so white. And luckily for the Recording Academy, they didn’t wait for the general public to make such a huge fuss about it before they did something about it. The nominees in their four general categories — the highest honors and the only categories that aren't genre specific — for 2018 are mainly people of color, and they suggest a turning tide for the Recording Academy.
Even though she won her first and only Grammy for Best R&B Performance earlier this year for her song “Cranes in the Sky,” Solange still couldn’t hide the truth about the Recording Academy after her big sister Beyoncé was snubbed for Album of the Year and recognition in the other four general categories for Lemonade. In a series of deleted tweets, she pointed out that in the last 20 years, only two Black artists took home Album of the Year despite the show featuring over 200 Black performers. Frank Ocean refused to submit his album Blonde or the visual accompaniment Endless for consideration for the 2017 Awards for similar awards. He did not attend the ceremony, and Kanye West followed this lead. This year, Drake is pulling the same move.
It very well could be that the pressure applied by these big names worked. This year, for the first time since 1999, not a single white man was nominated for Album of the Year. And with the exception of Lorde, whose sophomore project Melodrama received a nod, all of the nominees in that category are people of colour. Jay-Z’s 4:44, 24k Magic by Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar’s amazing third project DAMN., and Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino are the contenders for the night’s top honour. These men, plus Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee for “Despacito” are also in the Record of the Year category. Julia Michaels and Logic are the only white people in the running for Song of the Year, competing with “Despacito,” “24k Magic,” and “The Story of OJ.” Best New Artist is a particularly impressive for diversity, including obvious choices like SZA and Khalid, but the nod to Lil Uzi Vert suggests that Grammys might finally have an ear to the streets.
Even the contenders in the Rap and R&B categories, where the Grammys have typically relegated Black artists, reflect this. Cardi B.’s “Bodak Yellow” received not one, but two nominations for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. She is nominated alongside Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar, which is no small feat. Also nominated: her fiancé Offset. Culture, the album from his group Migos is nominated for Best Rap Album.
I, too, was ready to boycott the Grammys this year. But with Kendrick and Jay leading nominations, Cardi and Offset both in attendance, and a likely appearance from Beyonce if Jay shows up, I’m reclaiming my seat. And like Issa Rae, I will be “rooting for everybody Black.”