It’s no secret that whiteness (and maleness) dominate award shows, the most recent evidence of which is the list of 2016 Grammy nominees announced Monday. This is the most diverse slate yet, with 27 women nominated, but there was still a distressing lack of recognition for female artists of color in the major categories. Only two people of color, both men, were nominated for Song of the Year: Kendrick Lamar for “Alright” and Wiz Kahlifa for “See You Again.” Then there’s Record of the Year, the nominees for which include one (white) woman and three men of color (The Weeknd, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, and Bruno Mars as featured in Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”). The only woman of color in the Album of the Year award is the awesome Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. And as for the Best New Artist category? Oh yeah, that’s all white.
This lack of diversity isn't new for the Grammys or for awards shows in general. The 2015 Oscars featured an all-white selection of nominees. All. White. Then there are the Emmys. While some may have shouted, “Progress!” after Viola Davis won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, it’s just not enough. But the Grammys specifically have shown limited diversity recently. Remember white Macklemore’s win over Kendrick Lamar during last year’s Grammys? Black artists are often nominated only for category awards (such as Best Rap Album) and excluded from Album of the Year contention, but then a white man wins Best Rap Album, too. Where the hell does this leave people of color? Even further, where the hell does this leave women of color, who are apparently almost non-existent in the eyes of the Academy?
If you scroll through the rest of the list of nominees this year, much like other years, you notice that people of color, and especially women of color, are practically nonexistent. Singer-songwriter and Trinidadian powerhouse Nicki Minaj, for example, only received one nod this year, for Best Rap Album (The Pinkprint). Minaj has been vocal about the lack of diversity in award shows, and can you blame her? If you based your idea of what good music is on award shows like these, you might start to believe that only white men make great music. This is a disservice to all people, not only minorities, as it perpetuates the marginalization of black and latino and other non-white voices.
To counter the lack of diversity in the 2016 Grammy nominees, here's a list of incredible WOC artists who should have received a Grammy nomination (or two, or five). Because while I, too, love Taylor Swift, does she seriously need more than six nominations?
Kelela’s voice is hypnotic and the accompanying beats are probably unlike anything you’ve heard before. The Los Angeles-based Ethiopian American has a sound that blends elements of trip hop and trap music in a truly majestic way. She released her latest EP, Hallucinogen, just a few months ago and we can’t get enough of her haunting vocals. Somehow she has been completely snubbed by the Grammy Academy, which is beyond devastating.
There are 54 million Latinos currently living in the U.S. (not counting those the census has missed). You would think that by now, we would find the ability to recognize good music despite what language it’s in. Carla Morrison’s sound is somewhat reminiscent of Florence and the Machine and the Cardigans, but in Spanish. Latina artists deserve more recognition than they’re currently receiving, especially when their music is as good as this.
British singer-songwriter Estelle is of West African and Caribbean descent, but more than that, she’s ridiculously talented. Her unique sound is a blend of hip hop, R&B, dance, reggae, and then some. She released her must-hear album True Romance this past February, yet she is nowhere to be found on the Grammy nominees list. This is a serious head scratcher.
The indomitable Dej Loaf released her album ...And See That’s The Thing this past summer, and it is the greatest thing ever. The rapper from Detroit is only 24 but she has the talent and stage presence of a life long performer. She’s bringing the uber-sexy trap genre up a notch or twenty, and should start getting more recognition for her talents.
How this all-female supergroup isn’t taking over the radio waves really makes no sense. Comprised of five singing, dancing, badass women of color (Ally Brooke is of Mexican descent, Camila Cabello is Cuban and Lauren Jaregui is of Cuban descent, Dinah Jane’s background includes Polynesian and Tongan ancestry, and Normani Kordei is black), their sound is fresh and catchy as hell. You’ve no doubt heard and jammed out to the ear worm known as “Worth It.” These babes won Best Group last year, so why was their album Reflection snubbed this year?
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