Sunday, December 3, 2017

Melodrama: No White Men

and only one New Zealander...

Jay Z's album '4.44' nominated for Album of the Year 2018

So, in this breaking, 4-day old news that I have just become aware of due to events in my little life intervening - including an allergic reaction to soap - it would seem that for the first time in history no white men have been nominated for Album of the Year.

Is it the first time in history that no white men have been nominated for any major international award in any category of endeavour whatsoever? I don't know, but this seems quite likely, too.

So this is news.

According to a Washington Post music critic last year:

“For the past five years, black artists have been making era-defining pop music, some of which has been nominated for the heaviest Grammy in the land, album of the year... [but] then, when ‘music’s biggest night’ eventually rolls around, each and every one of these artists loses to a white act doing less-challenging, less-timely, less-imaginative work.”

Lorde's album 'Melodrama' nominated for Album of the Year 2018
So I guess the voters have made sure that won't be happening next year, unless... the only woman nominated wins, for she is white.

The fact that there is only one woman nominated out of five nominees for best album is less noteworthy for those in the international media. Much less do they care that she hails from a little known land in the south pacific, and much less still do they care that she went to the same school as my daughter and danced in the same dance group! 

And perhaps this is all fair enough - even if these things are a big deal to me, almost as big as my recently discovered soap allergy, which could be a pretty big stink going forward.

Still, for that one woman (Lorde) to be the only white nominee puts her in a pretty unenviable, no-win position, knowing that if she does wins for her unique brand of 'era-defining' pop music the decision will be seen as racist.

The stats on the number of black artists awarded Best Album are pretty bad and last year when Adele won over Beyonce, she herself said it was an outrage, echoing the general sentiment, and the same the year before when another white woman (Taylor Swift) won over a black artist, this time a man (Kendrick Lamar).

The stats for the number of women who have been nominated or won the award in its 59 years are not collated, but I would be surprised if women weren't very much in the minority. Only three black women (not including Aretha Franklin or Nina Simone) and nine black men have won the Best Album award, which is just over a fifth in total, and given the pioneering role of black artists in the US pop music industry which judges these awards that seems pretty shameful.

Still, that black men have won this award four times as often as black women - and I doubt the stats for white men and women are any different - given that women make up 50% of all populations, if not perhaps that number of recorded pop artists as it is likely that more men continue to be signed to record deals than women, and certainly that would have been true in the early years of the Grammys - suggests that sexism, like racism, is alive and well in the pop awards industry, despite the last two year's winners.

I suspect Lorde's 'Melodrama' is in the line-up for top album next year as the token woman and white person least likely to cause a scandal when she doesn't win - or even if she does. I think even she, like Adele last year, will be hoping that she doesn't.

It's tough being a woman of any colour or creed, with or without a soap allergy. And that could be catchy song lyric, watch out Grammy!




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