The Biggest Night in Music

A Look into the 2021 Grammys and the Public Controversy Behind It


Kevin Mazur

Taylor Swift wins Album of the Year

This year’s Grammys was a cause for celebration. The night honoring music’s biggest accomplishments of the year was packed full of big moments and record-breaking awards. 

Due to the pandemic, the Grammys was held outside of the Staples Center this year around the Los Angeles Convention Center. Originally, the event was supposed to be held on January 31st but was pushed back to March 14th because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. There was a lineup of star-studded performances that were mostly pre-taped, but the award show was live, tables were spaced 6 feet apart, everyone was tested beforehand, and all attendees wore masks. According to Variety, any money that they saved on a scaled-down approach has been eclipsed by the “expense and complexity of the necessary safety precautions.” Jack Sussman, CBS’s executive VP of specials, music, and live events, told Variety “Short of the Super Bowl, the Grammys are as big and intricate as it gets as a production.”

The night, in short, was full of victories for female artists. Beyoncé won 4 Grammys, including Best R&B Performance for “Black Parade,” becoming the most awarded woman in Grammys history. Her daughter Blue Ivy-who won best music video with Beyonce- became the second-youngest act to win a Grammy. As an artist, I believe it’s my job to reflect the times, and it’s been such a difficult time,” Beyoncé said as she collected the award. “So I wanted to uplift, encourage, celebrate all of the beautiful black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the world”. Beyoncé and rapper Megan Thee Stallion also made history by becoming the first pair of women to win in the best rap performance category for their remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Savage.”  

Billie Eilish performed an emotional rendition of her song “Everything I Wanted” with her brother Finneas. Eilish took home 2 Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media. 

Katie Pollack ‘22 says “My favorite performance by far was Billie Eilish because I think she is extraordinarily talented given how young she is.” 

Taylor Swift also made history by becoming the first woman to win Album of the Year three times by securing the victory for “folklore” an album described by Rolling Stone as the “definitive quarantine album [that] provided us with solace and catharsis just when we needed it the most.” In her speech, Swift thanked her small team of collaborators, including Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, and their children (whose names are dropped throughout the album), and her boyfriend and songwriting partner actor Joe Alwyn. “Mostly we just want to thank the fans,” Swift said. “ You guys met us in this imaginary world that we created, and we can’t tell you how honored we are forever.” Swift also performed a medley of songs from “folklore” and her newest album “evermore,” including “cardigan,” “august,” and “willow,” atop a cottage set in a magical forest. 

Aside from the female wins, Harry Styles took home his first Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance for his hit song “Watermelon Sugar” and performed the track sporting a custom Gucci leather suit and a green feather boa. 

The event was not without criticism, though. The hashtag “scammys” was number 1 trending on Twitter after popular K-pop band BTS lost out the award for Best Pop/Duo Group performance to Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me.” The Weeknd also was not nominated for his record-breaking and critically acclaimed album “Blinding Lights.” “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans, and the industry transparency. Because of the secret committees,” the Weeknd said on Twitter, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.” 

Harvey Mason Jr., a producer, and songwriter who is the academy’s interim chief executive said, “We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset. But I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”

“The Grammys should handle their legacy and clean it up to raise the bar to a level where everyone could be proud to hold up that award,” the Weeknd’s manager said. “This is Harvey’s chance to step up and have his legacy be the guy who got the Grammys finally right.”

Zayn Malik also tweeted “I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating the ‘creative excellence’ of ALL. End the secret committees.” Malik said the Grammys is a “space that creates and allows favoritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process.”

The accuracy of the nominations or how much a win actually means will continue to be a controversial topic to many. Drake said at the 2019 Grammys, “we’re playing in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. So it’s not the NBA where at the end of the year you’re holding a trophy because you made the right decisions or won the games. This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people who might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to say…But my point is you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.” 

Anthony Azuike ‘22 says “Personally I do think the Grammys are rigged and have thought that for a while now! From snubs to the under-appreciating artist the academy that clearly picks favorites and has clear biases that are often combatted with picking random artists to seem equal, and it’s getting old. Groups such as BTS have worked tirelessly to prove the music industry wrong. In addition, black artists in America have historically been a source of American entertainment especially in the music industry. I was extremely disappointed to see pop rap artist Doja Cat not get a Grammy for having 4 amazing songs at the top of the charts this year. ” 

The Grammys will continue to attract viewership because of the long history of respect and glamour attached to the name, but we can only hope for more inclusion and transparency in the future.