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The Grammy Divide

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The Grammy Awards are supposed to be an accurate representation of music trends in our world.They were established “to cultivate the under- standing, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture.” The Grammy steering committee members are all involved in the technical or creative side of music and decide the nominations in each category, and ultimately the winner.

The nominated artists and those who win are supposed to be the very best of the music industry. No matter if you think they are pointless, meaningless or just inaccurate, the Grammy Award Show is still meant to represent the best of the best: recent powerhouses like Adele,Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars have been cemented on the Grammy stage.And this year seemed to be Ed Sheeran’s year of becoming a powerhouse of music.

With the incredible streak of success the “Shape of You” pop song and the fact it was written by a young white-male artist, Ed Sheeran, is a combination made for
the Grammys.“Shape ofYou” is the most streamed song on Spotify (ever) and spent over a year on Billboard’s Hot 100. Nilsen Music (using a combination of pure sales and streams) named Sheeran’s 2017 album those who win are supposed to be the very best of the music industry. No matter if you think they are pointless, meaningless or just inaccurate, the Grammy Award Show is still meant to represent the best of the best: recent powerhouses like Adele,Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars have been cemented on the Grammy stage. And this year seemed to be Ed Sheeran’s year of becoming a powerhouse of music.

With the incredible streak of success the “Shape of You” pop song and the fact it was written by a young white-male artist, Ed Sheeran, is a combination made for
the Grammys.“Shape ofYou” is the most streamed song on Spotify (ever) and spent over a year on Billboard’s Hot 100. Nilsen Music (using a combination of pure sales and streams) named Sheeran’s 2017 album ‘÷’ (pronounced “Divide”) the biggest al- bum of the year. So it was a major surprise when Sheeran was not nominated for any of the major categories — especially for Song of the Year and Album of the Year. Even Elton John said he was saddened by the absence of nominations for Sheeran: “It’s all about politics. I don’t understand it. I never have understood awards shows. I think Ed was extremely upset. And I don’t blame him. Every single you hear now sounds like Shape of You.”

Although Sheeran was nominated for and won the Best Pop Solo Performance Award and Best Pop Vocal Album, his absence from Album of the Year is special because of the controversy behind the category. For the first time since 1999, not a single white, male artist has been nominated forAlbum of the Year.

But the drama that unfolded at last year’s Grammys foreshadowed Sheeran’s musical snub.

When Adele’s “25” won best Album of the Year, beating Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” Adele went up on stage and exposed the prejudice of the steering committee.Adele described how Beyoncé created an album that transcended typical musical barriers and it became all too clear that Beyoncé was short-changed as the Academy went for the more conventional artist.

It took Adele to stand up on stage and unearth the bias in the award show for everyone to see racism in the Grammys.

“I can’t possibly accept this award… the ‘Lemonade’ album, is just so monumental….and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing and we all got to see a side to you that you don’t always let us see…. You are our light.” In Adele’s acceptance speech, there was a feeling of pressure as Adele apologized for receiving something that was rightfully Beyoncé’s.

Adele then proceeded to split her Grammy award in two — one piece for her, the other for Beyoncé.

And in the wake of other awards shows receiving their own backlash, like #OscarsSoWhite, the 2018 Grammy steering committee seemed afraid to nominate

a white man to avoid being wrapped up with racism in awards shows.They made a conscious decision to avoid the same anger and backlash from last year, and in the process, made Ed Sheeran the collateral damage. Sheeran wasn’t nominated for any of the major categories because if a white man beat a diverse list of nominees, the Academy would risk being accused of racism again.

So in their own way, the Grammys were trying to address racism.The Academy knew that if they allowed for Sheeran
to be nominated in all the major categories, he would win. No matter how much you might want Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z to win, Sheeran’s stats were above all of them.The closest contender to Sheeran’s ÷ in terms of sales and streams was Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN” (Sheeran beat Lamar’s album sales by about 3,000 albums). Is this conscious decision to exclude a white artist who clearly deserves to be nominated a viable way to mask racism in awards shows? By refusing to create a level playing eld with the best artists without worrying over gender and race, the Academy has turned against its mission statement. And by doing this, the Grammys made racism part of the awards show.

Stepping back from global issues of racism, let’s look at how Ed Sheeran was personally affected by his snub. He boycotted the Grammys because he believed his third album and single did not receive the credit it deserved.The Academy figured that Sheeran would continue to be popular and produce music and treated Sheeran as collateral damage. In an inter- view with the Daily Star, Sheeran said that after he’s married (he’s engaged now) and has a baby, he will take a step back from music.

Was the decision to potentially leave the music industry driven by the lack of nominations for which he deserved and worked hard? Being pushed off to the side and discredited must surely leave Sheeran with a bitter feeling.

If Ed Sheeran truly was the best of 2017, why wasn’t he treated like it?

The Grammys have the expectation
of taking risks on what music is popular, without care for outside influences that would change the validity of nominations or wins.The example of Ed Sheeran is just another example in a long list of times when the Grammys have exhibited discrimination in their shows.Watching the Grammys this year, I was sad to see that the basis of music, which is personal and cultural expression, was underrepresented in “music’s biggest night.”

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