It’s that time of year when the Grammy nominations are announced and fans across the world discuss who they feel should or should not have been nominated, who should win, who shouldn’t, who has been ignored and of course there will be the annual calls of racism. And this year is no different.
The 2019 awards in February saw many artists appearing to boycott the ceremony in a stance against what has been claimed a ‘mainly male, mainly white voting body’. Following other movements such as #OscarsSoWhite, #TimesUp and #MeToo, it was felt that maybe now is the time to step up against the lack of diversity in the different categories.
Many claimed the boycott a success, saying that hopefully the next award ceremony would be more inclusive.
However, when the 2020 nominations were confirmed it was clear that K Pop band ‘BTS’ had been left off the list, much to the dismay and confusion of fans and everywhere.
Unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard of boy band BTS. Created in 2013 the group enjoyed success in their home country of South Korea before heading out to conquer the rest of the world. In 2017 they changed the meaning of their name from ‘Bangtan Sonyeondan’ – meaning Bulletproof Scout Boys – to “Beyond The Scene” in an attempt to attract more English speaking fans. The ploy worked and 2018 saw their releases Love Yourself: Tear and Love Yourself: Answer both reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Their third release – Map of the Soul: Persona – debuted at No. 1 in April this year, making BTS the first group to achieve three top hits in under a year since The Beatles in 1996 (Anthology).
BTS are not only a successful studio band, they recently closed their hugely successful Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour. A tour that sold nearly 1 million tickets around the world, grossing $117 million.
Their Halsey-assisted hit ‘Boy with Luv’ was their highest Billboard Hot 100 hit, peaking at No. 8, and the following RIAA platinum certification has further increased awareness of the band.
So with these accolades behind them – plus many more we have not mentioned here – it seemed an obvious conclusion that BTS would receive a Grammy nomination. Whether they were nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album or Album or Record of the Year nobody knew however it was clear they would be named in at least one section.
So the total omission of the group highlights once again the Recording Academy’s failure to keep up to date with who is hot and who is not, especially from cultures outside of the “white’ remit.
It seems that whichever awards ceremony you look at throughout ‘Awards Season’ has a poor relationship with artists of color. Not only confined to the Grammy’s, black artists seem to struggle when it comes to recognition of their achievements.
Since the first Grammy ceremony was held in 1959, artists are honored for the work they produced the previous year. Yet in the 61 years since that first ceremony few black artists have been awarded the Album of the Year award. The Academy has also been criticized for placing the majority of non-white artists in the rap or R&B sections.
It is also widely acknowledged that less successful artists have been awarded ahead of commercially and critically successful works, while ‘non-white’ artists are constantly being reduced to ‘others’ or ignored completely. As a hugely successful, worldwide, non-white music act, BTS have been spectacularly ignored in all aspects.
And all though not everyone will appreciate BTS’s music they must at least appreciate that they have been wildly successful and therefore, deserving of some sort of accolade at the Grammy.
BTS’s albums, streams, concerts and videos have consistently outsold many of their Western contemporaries with many artists lining up to collaborate with them. It is also ironic that in an attempt to appear up-to-date the Grammy actually asked them to perform at the awards last year.
Back in 2017 the Recording Academy were accused of racism when Beyonce was beaten by Adele for Album of the Year, prompting Adele to break her award in half to ‘share’ it with Queen Bey. However Grammy boss Neil Portnow hit back stating,
‘I don’t think there’s a race problem at all. We don’t, as musicians, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity.’
However many were not convinced with the idea that the 14,000 members of the Recording Academy ‘almost put a blindfold on’ when listening to nominated songs and albums.
Whatever the awarding bodies seem to think BTS fans have responded in their usual way. Sales have increased on all their products as well as increasing numbers of streams. In fact BTS’s complete works have been boosted back into the iTunes Top Albums chart for America so although BTS may not be winning a Grammy, their pockets certainly are winners.