Arts & Entertainment, Pop Rhetoric

2023 Grammys: Historic wins, disappointing losses, and spirited moments

Packed with A to Z-list celebrities, the 65th Grammy Awards  took place at Los Angeles’ Arena, hosted by comedian Trevor Noah for the third consecutive year. After the last few editions saw a disappointing mix of bad nominations and even worse wins (remember when Billie Eilish took home all four main category awards in 2020?), music’s biggest event boasted an exciting night of competition between chart-dominating artists and ignited a conversation about lack of diversity.

When nominations were announced, headlines buzzed over the contenders for top prizes. Despite some of Beyoncé’s past snubs, she took the lead with nine Grammy nominations in three of the four main categories, tying with none other than Jay-Z for the title of most nominated artist of all time. The singer won two Grammys for “Break my Soul” and RENAISSANCE, officially making history as the most decorated artist at the Grammys. Other groundbreaking moments included Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ Best Pop Duo/Group Performance win for their hit “Unholy,” making Petras the first transgender woman to be honoured with the award.

In response to criticism of the Recording Academy regarding the lack of diversity in award categories, nominees, and recipients, this year’s nominations suggested limited progress in a newer direction. The decision to introduce categories such as “Música Urbana Album” shows an effort to slowly address the assumptions that English music is the norm—as evidenced by the Grammy subtitle dubbing Bad Bunny as “singing in non-English”. Likewise, the Academy’s recurring pattern of relegating the work of Black artists to Rap/R&B categories, thereby excluding them from major, pop-focused categories, makes these efforts performative. 

Throughout the last few years, the Grammys felt more like a three-hour showcase of the same two artists sweeping through most, if not all, of the main category awards. Luckily, this trend was broken this year—most of the awards seemed evenly distributed amongst headlining nominees: Lizzo’s hit single, “About Damn Time,” won Record of the Year, and Adele’s “Easy On Me” was recognized for Best Pop Solo Performance.

However, the ceremony did not go without its usual snubs. Despite its absence from the Billboard Hot 100, Song of the Year went to Bonnie Raitt’s “Just Like That”—a surprising moment for Grammy viewers and the categories’ other nominees. Fans predicted Taylor Swift to have this award in the bag for her record-breaking track “All Too Well (10 Minute Version),” which would’ve made this her first-ever win in the category. 

The ceremony concluded with the night’s biggest award—Album of the Year. This highly-anticipated moment brought fans, quite literally, to the edge of their seats. A group comprising each nominee’s biggest fans took the stage in hopes of seeing their favourite artist awarded the top prize. Harry Styles’ Harry’s House won the award, and Styles delivered a tearful acceptance speech. He took a moment to thank his fans, family, and team before admitting how grateful he was, as “this doesn’t happen to people like [him] very often.” This particular line sparked controversy among Grammy viewers and sent the media into a frenzy. While some argued that this line referenced Styles’ modest upbringing and journey into the entertainment industry, others questioned the extent to which this was true, given that the music industry’s structure exhaustively prioritizes young, attractive, privileged white men.

Overall, the Grammys made for a highly entertaining evening, celebrating a diversity of artists and genres who impacted music in 2022. Although many don’t take the Grammys seriously anymore, the discourse it generates still has a lasting impact on the music industry. Considering its important media coverage and nationwide attention, the Recording Academy must continue to address  the structural inequities that fail music and artists time and time again.

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