On Tuesday, the Grammys announced their nominations for the 2018 awards shows, and there are some notable additions and snubs that make it look like the Recording Academy is getting into the business of identity politics.
For the first time in 14 years, no country music acts were nominated for the top awards: record of the year, song of the year, and album of the year. Instead, the Grammys took a sharp turn towards honoring hip-hop, R&B, and funk for the top awards.
Rapper Jay-Z and pop singer Bruno Mars got nods in all three top categories, while rapper/singer Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover), rapper Kendrick Lamar, and the coupling of Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee got nods in two of the top three categories. Meanwhile, rapper Logic got nominated for his anti-suicide song "1-800-273-8255" for song of the year.
Objectively speaking, Jay-Z, Mars, Gambino, Lamar, Fonsi and Yankee put out some great product this past year, and with any awards show, there are going to be some snubs. However, it appeared that Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, and Miranda Lambert were all looked over from the top categories because of concerns about white supremacy. Instead, Lorde, the 20-year-old New Zealand singer, and Julia Michaels, the 24-year-old singer from Iowa, were the only pop acts to be nominated for the top categories.
Now, award shows aren't always the standard for great music. There are plenty of songs and albums that deserve recognition, but don't get it. For example, Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" losing out to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "The Heist" for Best Rap Album in 2014 was a travesty of epic proportions. It was the type of win where it appeared the Recording Academy was putting liberal politics over art due to Macklemore's pro-same-sex marriage song "Same Love." You can also cite the example of Beck's "Morning Phase" winning album of the year, beating Beyoncé's self-titled album in 2015.
It's hard to argue that this year's nominations aren't somehow inspired by identity politics in the wake of President Trump's election in Nov. 2016. CNN political commentator Van Jones called Trump's victory was a result of a "whitelash," or a white backlash as a result of significant racial progress evident by the presidential election and re-election of Barack Obama. The entertainment industry is doing its best to combat Trump's presumed sympathies for white nationalists, supremacists, and Nazis with a purported "blacklash" or "people of color-lash."
While it's not the worst thing that identity politics have seeped into our awards shows, it's a testament to our society politicizing everything that we hold dear. Nothing is sacred anymore, and we're just going to have to deal with politics in every facet of our life from now on.