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Are artists rightly mad at Grammys secrecy, or are they mad they got snubbed? Delve into "secret committees" allegations in 2021.

Why are so many artists protesting the 2021 Grammys winners?

Once again, the Grammys have come & gone. Pushed back thanks for COVID-19, the “biggest night in music” happened Sunday night, March 14th, 2021, rather than its usual slot sometime in early February. And while the date changed, the faces parading across the stage to accept the Grammys in 2021 . . . not so much. 

Queen Bey had a spectacular night, becoming the most-decorated female artist in Grammys history. Billie Eilish took home more awards after sweeping the Grammys last year. Swifties celebrated after Taylor took home a few more golden awards. However, some celebrities, including Grammy winners, are crying foul, accusing the awards of favoritism. 

Are the Grammys riddled with behind-the-scenes cronyism? Let’s take a peek behind the curtain. 

Calls for transparency

A petition to the Recording Academy, the body overseeing the Grammy Awards, called for greater transparency over how nominees are voted on. Despite the petition from a few years ago, calling for the recognition of members’ majority votes, addressing “unwritten rules of solicitation” and “bloc voting” to be more clearly defined for transparency, calls for more transparency still continue. 

When the Grammys 2021 nominations were announced in November, already, there was backlash. The Weeknd announced he would no longer submit his music to The Grammys, citing “secret committees” as the reason. 

While calling out alleged shady behavior from the Grammys isn’t a new thing in 2021, what’s different this year is the droves of celebs speaking out per Cosmopolitan. They unfolded exhibits A through Z of celebrity tweet receipts that the music industry is no longer having it with the Grammys in 2021. 

Zayn Malik’s thread

In a Twitter thread on March 9th, Zayn Malik called out The Grammys for making a space that “creates and allows favoritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process”. 

Also alluding to secret committees, Malik ended his tweet with: “I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion.  We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating “creative excellence” of ALL.  End the secret committees.” 

Wiz Khalifa further referred to dirty dealings for Grammy wins when he was asked if he thought Abel was snubbed at the 2021 Grammys. Khalifa explained that unless you “show up to their parties” they don’t throw your name around. 

According to Vice News, these secret committee claims aren’t a conspiracy theory, but rather, part of a secretive voting process the Recording Academy implements to keep outsiders from influencing who wins. The five-step process comes into scrutiny at the submission review stage, where the Academy “makes sure that each entry is eligible and placed in its proper category”. At this point, it’s reportedly not about artistry. 

One unwritten rule about submissions is “be careful about green-lighting an album by someone who [is] really famous if you don’t want to see that album win a Grammy” per insider Rob Kenner. Hence, some years, casual music listeners might be confused as to why Johnny No-Name, or the band Never-Heard-Their-Single, won Album of the Year or Best New Artist. 

Gender disparity

In November, every single R&B nominee for the 2021 Grammys was male. R&B artist Teyana Taylor called out the Grammys for overlooking women this year. Taylor tweeted at the Recording Academy: “Y’all was better off just saying best MALE R&B ALBUM cause all I see is dick in this category.” 

The Best R&B Album & Performance Grammys have gone to many women in the past, including Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, and Alicia Keys. 2019 was the last year a woman snagged the Best R&B album award – H.E.R. won for her self-titled album and also earned the Grammy for Best R&B Performance for “Best Part” with Daniel Caesar.

Notably, in 2021, no women were selected as nominees for Best R&B Album. John Legend won the Grammy this year, tying his number of Grammy wins for this category with Alicia Keys, who are both currently sitting on three Grammy wins for Best R&B Album. 

Nicki Minaj also tweeted she was snubbed by the Grammys for Best New Artist in a year when she has several chart-topping singles. They gave the award to Bon Iver, who took home Best New Artist & Best Alternative Album. 

On the flip side, there were a plethora of female nominees in the rock & metal categories, which have been labeled as “boys clubs” in the industry in years past. Poppy became the first female solo act nominated for Best Metal Performance ever. Best Rock Performance nominees were entirely women in 2021, with Fiona Apple taking home the Grammy this year. 

Speaking of Fiona Apple

Apple actually missed the Grammys in 2021, but for a more personal reason than alleged backroom deals. “I’m just not made for that kind of stuff anymore. I want to stay sober, and I can’t do that sober. It doesn’t feel safe to me to be in that kind of exposure, scrutiny, comparison to people. . . . I don’t want to do it, so I’m not doing it”, she said in a video. 

“What really, really is undeniably important is the transparency in actual courtrooms”, Fiona Apple said, urging her fans to sign a petition to keep virtual access in U.S. courtrooms after the pandemic. “There’s people who are being held pretrial on nonviolent charges on bonds they can’t afford, or on no bond”, she detailed. “It’s ruining families and f***ing with futures that we need to help protect.” 

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