Not surprisingly, the 61st Annual Grammy Awards (aired on Feb. 10) gained its fair share of attention throughout social media, including comments from pop singer Ariana Grande regarding the cancellation of her scheduled performance. However, despite the media spotlight which typically surrounds these awards ceremonies, the 2018 Grammy Awards experienced a drop of nearly 6 million viewers according to Forbes Magazine, a 24 percent drop in viewers from the previous year. Even the widely celebrated Academy Awards Ceremony experienced a decline in viewership, as the 2018 broadcast reported a rating drop of 16 percent from the previous year according to Fortune Magazine.
These reports only highlight the fact that awards shows have been experiencing a decline in viewership for years. This drop in ratings can be accredited to many factors. Perhaps the duration of the Grammys, a considerable four hours, is leaving audiences uninterested.
One reason could be that younger audiences are simply not invested in the prestige that surrounds these award shows. With the development of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, teens are shifting away towards the sphere and cinema in favor of watching a movie or TV show for one subscription cost. With the multi-million dollar presentation full of glamorous ball gowns, tuxedos and limousines, perhaps these awards ceremonies are simply too pretentious in the eyes of younger viewers.
However, the trend of declining viewership in regards to award shows is likely due to an onslaught of massive social media campaigns which highlight these award shows long history of racism and unequal racial representation.
In 2016, a hashtag entitled #OscarsSoWhite swept through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. According to USA Today, the hashtag was created as a backlash against the Academy Awards for nominating all white actors in the lead and supporting acting categories for the 2016 ceremony. Despite its recent creation, #OscarsSoWhite is representative of the Academy Awards’ long history of underrepresenting black, Asian, Latino and Hispanic actors. Perhaps the decline in award show viewership throughout recent years is the result of young people who want to see an increase in racial representation and the acknowledgment of black artists across the spheres of film and music.
As of 2019, only 15 black actors have won an Oscar in a leading or supporting category throughout the Academy Awards’ 91-year history. Although the 2019 Academy Awards is showing promise for equal representation with best picture nominees “Roma,” “Black Panther,” “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman,” reinventing the world of film to include people of all races and ethnicities has proven to be a challenge to the historically white-dominated Academy.
In addition to the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards ceremony has gained a reputation for giving awards strictly to white artists. According to Daily Beast Magazine, author Ira Madison III, only 10 black artists have won album of the year throughout the Grammy Awards’ 61-year history. The Grammy Awards have been blasted by many on account that black artists only receive the album of the year award when their music appeals to white audiences.
Black artists are almost always pushed into the category of hip-hop or rap, despite the fact that a song or album may be considered by the artist to fit into a different genre. According to Esquire Magazine, Drake won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Hotline Bling” in 2017. This was only his third Grammy award, despite being nominated 42 times prior to the 2017 show. Drake criticized the Grammy Awards in an Ovo Sound radio interview following the ceremony, stating that “Even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song… the only category they can manage to fit me in is a rap category.”
Drake’s comments highlight how black artists are constantly dismissed and ignored by the Grammy Awards in order to fit the perspective of a white audience. This can be seen throughout many of the Grammy Awards’ controversial best album selections, such as Taylor Swift’ “1989” win over Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” or Adele’s “25” win over Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed “Lemonade.” These artists, who often produce albums monumental to black culture, are failed by an outdated series of award show critics who would rather appeal to white audiences than honor black musicians.
It is clear to see that these controversies are pushing an uncomfortable subject into the spotlight of award show executives, but only time will tell if these award shows are ready to make a change for a modern audience.