Illustration of a Grammy in article about the Grammys

The Grammys Took Place Amid Crisis and Controversy

After a series of delays and controversial nominations, 'music's biggest night' went on, with big wins for industry staples and newcomers alike.
April 7, 2021
6 mins read

A global pandemic might provide the perfect pretext for an award show to take the year off, but the Grammys continued nonetheless. Besides the underlying threat of a deadly virus, many important events took place during the 2021 Grammys.

Award Shows During a Pandemic

Historically, the Grammys have occurred much closer to the beginning of the year. The 2021 Grammys were originally scheduled to happen on Jan. 31, a month after the new year. The show was postponed due to the pandemic and was rescheduled for March 14. Organizers explained that the Grammys only took place after “thoughtful conversations with health experts, [their] host and artists scheduled to appear.”

Regardless of your opinion on the Grammys’ decision to continue amid a pandemic, the surge of COVID-19 cases in the past couple of months is nothing to ignore. Rolling Stone reports that the decision to hold the event later in the year occurred after a meeting of SAG-AFTRA, which advised for “a temporary hold on in-person production.“

“Southern California hospitals are facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Patients are dying in ambulances waiting for treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed. This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Cateris. The state of California, despite the increase in vaccinations, did not look much different during the rescheduled Grammys.

Other Controversy 

The Grammys become the subject of controversy each year, and even aside from the issues surrounding COVID-19, the 2021 award show was no different. Many were shocked by The Weeknd’s lack of recognition for his latest album, “After Hours.” Despite the album’s widespread critical acclaim and the single “Blinding Lights” spending an entire year atop the Billboard charts, the artist received zero nominations.

Vox wrote, “[The Weeknd] vowed to boycott the Grammys, this year and in the future, by not performing during the 2021 show and not submitting his music for consideration at the awards going forward.” The Weeknd’s decision not to participate in the Grammys marks a major turning point. As fewer artists agree with the decisions made by the Grammys, the award show becomes less representative of the songs and artists deserving recognition.

Countless other artists also chose not to participate in the 2021 Grammys, many of them high-profile artists who have been consistently recognized for their work by the Recording Academy. Beyoncé, despite her nominations for “Black Parade,” chose not to perform at the Grammys. The A-list artist received nine nominations in eight categories. Her decision not to perform will be the third time that the most nominated artist has not performed at the Grammys, after Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z.

Big Wins at the Grammys

Anderson .Paak — known for “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” which has been used widely on TikTok — scored big during the 2021 Grammys with his song “Lockdown,” which won for best melodic rap performance. “Lockdown” marked his third Grammy win and beat out nominees DaBaby with Roddy Ricch, Drake with Lil Durk, Roddy Ricch, and Travis Scott. The song’s win was especially significant considering recent conversations around police brutality and Black Lives Matter. Anderson .Paak raps about the interactions between protestors and cops during Black Lives Matter rallies, with lines such as “Said, ‘It’s civil unrest,’ but you sleep so sound like you don’t hear the screams when we catchin’ beatdowns?”

With lines like these, Anderson .Paak comments on the hypocrisy of onlookers who condemn rioters during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, but are seemingly unconcerned during episodes of police brutality. He continues, “Stayin’ quiet when they killin’ n—–, but you speak loud when we riot, got opinions comin’ from a place of privilege.” The 2021 Grammys were filled with controversial decisions, but they got it right with this award given to Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown.”

Numerous other important wins happened during the awards show, such as Billie Eilish winning record of the year. Megan Thee Stallion was also nominated for her song “Savage,” and Eilish’s win led her to deflect and say, “This is really embarrassing to me… Megan… Girl, you deserve this.” Billie won the award for her song “Everything I Wanted,” which stood alongside Taylor Swift’s “folklore” as one of the biggest wins of the night. Swift took home her third Grammy for album of the year, becoming the fourth artist to achieve such an honor.

Megan Thee Stallion, however, did not leave empty-handed. The artist left with three awards at the 2021 Grammys, including for best rap performance.

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Beyoncé became the most celebrated female artist ever at the 2021 Grammys with 28 trophies, tying Quincy Jones. This year, Beyonce won the music video of the year award for “BROWN SKIN GIRL,” the R&B performance of the year award for “Black Parade” and the rap song of the year and rap performance of the year awards for her feature on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.”

63rd Grammys

While the 2021 Grammys were characterized by important wins for artists such as Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, the show recorded a 51% drop in viewership from 2020. This drop marks the lowest viewership the show has ever seen, which is especially significant during a pandemic, when many people are spending time at home watching TV.

This year’s show did not escape controversy. The pandemic remained an issue, and the absence of The Weeknd after his year full of hits and a Super Bowl halftime show was apparent. While the Grammys may have been considered a bomb by many this year, the strides that the show has taken toward supporting issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement are important. Hopefully, the future of the Grammys will continue to recognize artists such as Anderson .Paak for music that comments on real events and isn’t shy to call out oppressors.

Michael Boland, DePaul University

Writer Profile

Michael Boland

DePaul University
Political Science, Journalism

Hello! My name is Michael Boland and I am a double major in political science and journalism at DePaul University. I am passionate about all things politics and just recently moved to Chicago!

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