What you need to know before the 65th annual Grammys
The 65th Grammy Awards are taking place on Feb. 4, 2023, and following years of snub accusations, it’s looking like more of the public might resist tuning in, and tune out the noise instead. As the Recording Academy tries to keep hold of its prestige and relevance, many artists and members of the public are boycotting or losing interest in the Grammys. This award show season may be a pivotal moment in the ongoing evaluation of whether or not award shows are becoming a cultural phenomenon of the past.
When it comes to evaluating the public’s general opinion, the statistics don’t lie. In an attempt to find out if the Grammys are on the road to irrelevance, I surveyed my Instagram followers on the matter. In my social media poll of 108 people, most of whom were university aged, 86 per cent voted that award shows are becoming irrelevant. A second poll of 91 participants of the same demographic revealed that 87 per cent usually disagreed with the Recording Academy’s choice of winner in a given category, while only 13 per cent usually agreed with the Academy’s picks. A final poll of 115 voters about how the public will be tuning in to the Grammys concluded that a majority (59 per cent) will be relying on social media to fill them in on Grammy news, while 33 per cent of respondents claimed that they would not be tuning in to the Grammys at all, and only seven per cent said they would be watching the show live or at a later date.
Live viewing statistics corroborate the results of my survey. In 2012, 39 million viewers watched the Grammys. In 2022, this number dropped to about nine million viewers.
If the majority of participants in the survey voted that award shows are becoming irrelevant, and that they don’t see themselves represented in the way the Academy votes, where does that leave the Grammys as an institution? On the road to total social irrelevance, it seems. But why?
One of the main reasons the Grammys has come under fire and lost significant viewership in recent years has to do with the lack of representation in nominees and winners, and more specifically, the lack of recognition artists of colour receive for their excellence. One particular snub that catalyzed a loud conversation about the Grammys’ biases was that of Black R&B artist, The Weeknd, at the 63rd Grammy Awards. Despite having one of the most commercially successful albums of the year, The Weeknd wasn’t nominated in any categories. He told Variety after the show that “the trust has been broken for so long between the Grammy organization and artists.”
Shortly after, the Recording Academy made a significant rule change to their voting process, eliminating the secret nomination review committees that made final decisions about nominations. Instead, nominations in certain categories would be chosen by the general Academy electorate, hopefully eliminating the alleged racial bias of industry executives that comprised the voting committee. The Recording Academy also released a statement pledging “ongoing commitment to evolve with the musical landscape and to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”
While the question of if the Academy will be able to keep up with the demands of its critics and represent an accurate and full scope of artists has yet to be determined, it might not even be worth asking anymore. The more relevant question seems to be what will the future of the Grammys reflect about our collective social attitudes toward equity in the arts? Furthermore, even if the Grammys can salvage its reputation, will that be enough to save its relevance if the general public is losing interest in the institution of awards shows in general?
As the 65th annual Grammy Awards commences in the coming month, more will be revealed about the Grammys’ traction on the landscape of the current cultural zeitgeist, and the future of the show. While some hope for the Academy’s downfall and others have their fingers crossed for a redemption arc, for some, it’s as simple as one UVic student stated when interviewed about their take on the Grammys.
“I don’t mind the outfits, but … I don’t really care for the actual award show.”