• Monday, July 15, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Grammy and the matters arising

Davido, Burna Boy’s Grammy snub raise cultural misrepresentation dust

The 66th Grammy Awards has taught Nigerians that regardless of a song’s popularity or commercial success, its winners are decided by a voting committee.

For instance, Davido and Burna Boy’s loss, despite 7 Grammy nominations between them and the popularity and success of their songs, sparked debates online. Defending the awards, Harvey Mason Jr., Chief Executive Officer of the Recording Academy, the organising body for the Grammy Awards, argued that sales, streams, and popularity did not matter in deciding winners.

While addressing concerns that Afrobeats artists were snubbed in a viral video, Manson said, “(Votes are) not the sales, not the streams, not how many fans, but purely on the opinion. It is very hard, as you all know because it is subjective.

Read also: Nigeria misses out at 66th Grammy Awards, despite 10 nominations

“It is not the best song or best record, it is just the opinion of that membership of that particular year. That is how you win a Grammy. The voters vote. There is no committee, no journalist, and there are no labels.”

Mason meant to address the concerns of fans but only raised new questions. Over the years the Grammys have recorded notable controversies from undeserving winners to more cultural issues, especially in its major categories.

Read also: Davido, Burna Boy’s Grammy snub raise cultural misrepresentation dust

In the 56th Annual Grammys for example, Macklemore won Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar’s hip hop album ‘Good Kid Maad City’ which received widespread acclaim and until today, this is still considered one of the best rap albums ever created by a rap artist by other rappers.

Even Macklemore has publicly stated that Kendrick’s album deserved the award that year. In 2019, the Recording Academy hired Deborah Dugan as the CEO and in that same year she was placed on administrative leave after she made some allegations that the Grammys (which she was supposed to be a part of) were rigged and filled with conflict of interest.

One of the allegations she raised in a released document was that the Grammy board used the committee to push forward artists with whom they were in a relationship with. Others included how committee members manipulated the nomination process to ensure songs that the producer of the Grammys wants to be performed on stage get nominated.

After this recently concluded 66th Grammy Award, Afrobeats fans, and enthusiasts accused the Recording Academy of using the genre to market the show for viewership purposes because despite having over 10 Afrobeats artists nominated in different categories, none one. Even Burna Boy who performed live at the Grammys won nothing.

This mirrors the 2022 Grammys when BTS, the famous South Korean music band was nominated for different categories at the Award ceremony and performed on the stage. They won nothing that year too. This made fans of BTS trend ‘#Scammys’ on X (formerly Twitter).

To experts, categorising Afrobeats with other music genres from different parts of the world, especially in the Global Music Performance category, lowers the winning chances of any Afrobeat artist.

Femi Akeusola, a Nigerian Photographer and Music Analyst, believes Nigerian artists, nominated in these categories, are already faced with the possibility of loss due to the subjective nature of the voting process. He suggested to BusinessDay that future nominations in the Global Music category should prompt a boycott by the artists nominated.

In previous years the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Sinéad O’ Connor, the late Irish singer, and Will Smith have boycotted the Grammys citing different reasons. Others like Wiz Khalifa have also called out the awards for corruption.

Afrobeats experts such as Joey Akan, a Nigerian music journalist noted that the best way for Nigerians to feel less aggrieved by the actions of organisations like the Grammys was to improve the award systems locally.

On his X handle, he stated, “What we need is to return home. Tails between our legs as the realisation that all we have got is us. And if we don’t take care of our home, build, support, and elevate it locally, we are at risk of delegating our pride to foreigners. Afrobeats have intrinsic value.”

Further on Grammys and local awards, Akan explained, “Why are we hurt? Because we are playing a game that wasn’t created for us. And it sucks to lose. Perhaps, this spurs us as a creative and business class.

“To look inward and see our worth within us. That our local industry and all its institutions are enough, and exploration is just what it is, exploration. Perhaps across the continent, we can resurrect our reward systems, intentionally imbuing cultural power and credibility in local award shows and bodies that seek to celebrate us.”

But can local awards save our artists? These awards such as the Headies have not been without their controversies. The most recent being that the award was moved to the US. While this was seen as a move to further promote Afrobeats through the partnerships it got from the likes of CBS and the US embassy, music enthusiasts and award fans criticised the move.

Even before moving to the US, nominated artists were often criticised for not attending the awards. Some of them were known to only show up fashionably late, all of which dented the Headies, the reputation, and the validation it needed to be taken seriously.

On Wednesday 7 February 2024, Ayo Animashaun, founder of the Headies Awards announced that the award was coming back to Nigeria.