The 2016 Grammys: An Exercise in Whiteness

Taylor-Swift-2016-GrammysDuring the 2016 Grammys, there was a concerted effort to center whiteness at all costs, further proving that the awards are worth less than their gold-plating.

We’ve been accused of being racists and race baiters a million times. But we’re not looking to point out the racial aspects of everything. They are just so unavoidable that we would be dishonest if we didn’t say something.

What’s funny about the Grammys is that it suffers a problem completely opposite of what the Oscars do. The Oscars are known for awarding based upon their own elitist standards and not by mass popularity whereas the Grammys are far more prone to award the commercially successful instead of the best examples of artistic expression. How else do you explain Taylor Swift taking home the most trophies, despite Kendrick Lamar leading the number of nominations? (HINT: it’s not talent, depth, or musicality)

But no matter how you feel about the crab leg in a dress, the racial discrimination was even more blatant and undeniable when you simply observe what was included in the telecast and what wasn’t. The Grammys did their best to be inclusive of musical genres with which awards were presented on air and which had performances. But which genre was glaringly absent for both? R&B. Instead of being able to see D’Angelo and the Vanguard accept the Best R&B trophy, all we really got was a half-baked tribute to Lionel Richie chock full of white singers and the acceptance speech for Best Musical Theater Album. Like, really?

And speaking of tributes, how in da hayell does Natalie Cole (a 21 time Grammy nominee and 9 time winner who was 1st African American to win Best New Artist) only receive a 30-second chunk of the “In Memoriam” montage while David Bowie (a 1-time winner) received a high-profile 7-minute performance tribute? These are the questions that boggle your mind, until you realize, whiteness. It was so bad, that Cole’s own sisters deemed the tribute “disrespectful”.

And in another sign of the most ultimate of disrespects, the Best R&B Performance trophy went to The Weeknd for “Earned It”. This is a person who should be banned from ever being awarded for his “performance” Take his “bleeding billy goat” performance from the telecast as proof.

The only bright spot of the whole evening was when Kendrick Lamar stormed the stage at peak blackness. His performance reignited the nap-inducing show, however momentarily, with an opening chain gang and then a massive bonfire that literally torched the stage.

By the time Pitbull roared onto the stage to close things out, I was done. But when he brought out Robin Thicke? ALL the way done. Still, it was a perfect way to cap off an evening so intent on awarding whiteness and marginalizing blackness. Robin Thicke has literally become a symbol of that. The show might have been saved if Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, or even Rihanna showed up as planned. But something tells me their “busyness bronchitis” was a well-timed and convenient way to dodge a train wreck.

Now excuse me while I go listen to my empowerment playlist (which only consists of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and Beyoncé’s “Formation“) to cleanse myself of that vapid collection of sound progressions they let pass as music.


The full list of winners is below.

Record of the Year: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Album of the Year: Taylor Swift, 1989

Best New Artist: Meghan Trainor

Best Rock Performance: Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Best Musical Theater Album: Hamilton

Song of the Year: Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Best Country Album: Chris Stapleton, Traveller

Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat, “These Walls”

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern

Best Pop Solo Performance: Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Best Rap Song: Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

Best Alternative Music Album: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

Best Rock Album: Muse, Drones

Best Rap Performance: Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

Best Rock Song: Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Best R&B Album: D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah

Best Urban Contemporary Album: The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness

Best R&B Performance: The Weeknd, “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)”

Best R&B Song: D’Angelo and The Vanguard, “Really Love”

Best Traditional R&B Performance: Lalah Hathaway, “Little Ghetto Boy”

Best Dance/Electronic Album: Skrillex and Diplo, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

Best Dance Recording: Skrillex and Diplo With Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”

Best Music Video: Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance: Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”

Best Country Song: Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”

Best Music Film: Amy Winehouse, Amy

Best Rap/Song Collaboration: Common & John Legend, “Glory”

Best Pop Vocal Album: Taylor Swift, 1989

Best Country Solo Performance: Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”

Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Tobymac, This Is Not a Test

Best Roots Gospel Album: The Fairfield Four, Still Rockin’ My Soul

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album: Pitbull, Dale

Best Latin Pop Album: Ricky Martin, A Quien Quiera Escuchar (Deluxe Edition)

Best Comedy Album: Louis C.K., Live at Madison Square Garden

Best Spoken Word Album: Jimmy Carter, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety

Score Soundtrack for Visual Media: Birdman

Best Gospel Album: Israel & Newbreed, Covered: Alive Is Asia [Live] (Deluxe)

Best Gospel Performance/Song: Kirk Franklin, “Wanna Be Happy?”

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: Francesca Battistelli, “Holy Spirit”

Best Contemporary Classical Composition: Stephen Paulus, Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album: Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano, Joyce & Tony – Live From Wigmore Hall

Best Classical Instrumental Solo: Augustin Hadelich, “Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, L’Arbre Des Songes”

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: Eighth Blackbird, “Filament”

Best Choral Performance: Charles Bruffy, “Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil”

Best Opera Recording: Saito Kinen Orchestra; SKF Matsumoto Chorus & SKF Matsumoto Children’s Chorus, “Ravel: L’Enfant Et Les Sortilèges; Shéhérazade”

Producer of the Year, Classical: Judith Sherman

Best New Age Album: Paul Avgerinos, Grace

Best Surround Sound Album: Roger Waters, Amused to Death

Best Orchestral Performance: Boston Symphony Orchestra, “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphony No. 10”

Best Classical Compendium: Giancarlo Guerrero, Paulus: Three Places of Enlightenment; Veil of Tears & Grand Concerto

Best Regional Roots Music Album: Jon Cleary, Go Go Juice

Best Folk Album: Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Best Blues Album: Buddy Guy, Born to Play Guitar

Best Bluegrass Album: The Steeldrivers, The Muscle Shoals Recordings

Best Americana Album: Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

Best American Roots Song: Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”

Best American Roots Performance: Mavis Staples, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”

Best Tropical Latin Album: Rubén Blades With Roberto Delgado & Orchestra, Son De Panamá

Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Los Tigres Del Norte,Realidades – Deluxe Edition

Best Children’s Album: Tim Kubart, Home

Best World Album: Angélique Kidjo, Sings

Best Reggae Album: Morgan Heritage, Strictly Roots

Best Latin Jazz Album: Eliane Elias, Made in Brazil

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Maria Schneider, The Thompson Fields

Best Jazz Instrumental Album: John Scofield, Past Present

Best Jazz Vocal Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant, For One to Love

Best Surround Sound Album: James Guthrie and Joel Plante, Amused To Death

Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk (Dave Audé Remix)”

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

Best Historical Album: Various artists; The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11

Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: Various Artists, The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records, Volume Two (1928-32)

Best Album Notes: Joni Mitchell, Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced

Best Recording Package: Sarah Dodds, Shauna Dodds & Dick Reeves; Asleep at the Wheel, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals: Maria Schneider, “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)”

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella: Avi Kaplin, Kirstin Taylor, Kevin K.O. Olusola; “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy”

Best Instrumental Composition: Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, “The Afro Latin Jazz Suite”

MusiCares Person of the Year: Lionel Richie


Photo credit: YouTube

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.

2 Responses

  1. Mary Burrell says:

    I don’t even like HipHop but i like Kendrick Lamar’s performance he served some unapologetic blackness. The white folks were perplexed i love when the camera pans to the audience and the expressions on the white folks faces. With Beyonce’s Formation last week that had white folks losing their minds and Kendrick slaying i think it might be too much for their sensibilities and white fragility.

  2. Mary Burrell says:

    Other than Kendrick’s performance it was a snooze fest