Yes, the 64th annual awards in Las Vegas, which aired Sunday on CBS, honored a diverse array of performers – from song and record of the year winners Silk Sonic to best new artist Olivia Rodrigo to album of the year winner Jon Batiste.
But the Recording Academy reminded us that an awards show can be inclusive in all kinds of other ways, too – something other shows like the oscars should implement. Like, yesterday.
Performers again electrified the grammys stage with passion and poise: The jovial Batiste. queer artists Lil Nas XBrandi Carlile and T. J. Osborne, half of the Brothers Osborne. Spanish-language singers J. Balvin and Maria Becerra. K-Pop sensation BTS. The soulful, swoon-worthy John Legend, joined by Ukrainian performers in a gut-wrenching tribute to the country, now under attack from Russia.
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Viewers also glimpsed snippets of performances from lesser-known artists from the MGM Grand’s rooftop across many genres, including Cuban singer Aymée Nuviola and contemporary worship group Maverick City Music.
This year’s show recognize even made an effort to those who rarely receive any attention at all: behind-the-scenes tour staff introduced their bosses, including Billie Eilish, Chris Stapleton and HER
Even E!’s red-carpet coverage joined in on the spirit of inclusion, with sign language interpreters occasionally accompanying artists during host Laverne Cox interviews for the benefit of deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.
What if the Oscars tamped down its attempts at relevance – like cutting eight categories from the live show and replacing that time with cringe-worthy gags – and instead elevated more behind-the-scenes support staff that help make movies happen?
Instead of Amy Schumer jokingly calling Kirsten Dunst a seat filler, for example, why not recognize lower-profile Oscar nominees in the short film or makeup and hairstyling categories? And a film’s assistant director could introduce a montage for best picture of the year.
One reminder from this year’s Grammys: it’s not just the biggest categories that make for the most compelling acceptance speeches.
Take Jazmine Sullivan’s for best R&B album. She says she wrote the project to deal with her own shame over choices she made in her 20s, But “Heaux Tales” blossomed into “a safe space for Black women to tell their stories, for us to learn from each other, laugh with each other, and not be exploited at the same time,” she said. “And that’s what I’m most grateful for. So shout-out to all Black women who are just living their lives.” (Sullivan finally won her first two Grammys this year after receiving more than a dozen nominations since 2009.)
Of course, the Grammys remain imperfect. Music’s biggest night has been far from immune to past controversies – particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion in its nominees and winners.
The last few years have brought the #GrammysSoMale hashtag, protesting the scarcity of female winners, and in response, former Recording Academy President Neil Portnow suggesting that women need to “step up” to be recognized; artists lamenting the awards’ treatment of Black music; and K-Pop groups failing to make significant headway in major categories.
The Academy has made sweeping efforts to diversify its ranks, developing a task force months after its January 2018 ceremony celebrated mostly men and pop music.
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It made headway last year by awarding Grammys to Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion and HERand featured performances from artists like Mickey Guyton, Bad Bunny and Cardi B.
The organization has also worked to diversify membership, created inclusive initiatives and eliminated its controversial nomination review committees – panels that chose nominees from a list of those who received the most votes. Nominees are now based purely on votes cast by the academy’s 11,000-plus voting members.
Questions have loomed for years around the nominations process, with music industry players calling for more transparency.
And the academy’s goal is to double the number of female members by 2025, and it is more than halfway there.
The awards show has also built more inclusion into its broadcast behind the scenes: The Grammys announced last fall that it had adopted an inclusion rider for the 2022 ceremony, an agreement requiring producers to audition, interview and hire people from groups that have been historically and systematically excluded from the industry. CBS also included audio description for the live telecast for the first time.
“From a ‘front of camera’ perspective, the Grammys appear to have been quite diverse and inclusive – from race to gender and other elements of diversity, song selections and artist performances,” says Angela Reddock-Wright, an employment lawyer and mediator who works with the entertainment industry. “The real question is what is happening behind the scenes and whether the Grammy organization is honoring its commitment to require an inclusion rider for the 2022 Grammys.” She notes the success of this rider has not been made public.
Still, “it appears the organization, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, has made great strides,” she adds.
Overall the Grammys bested the Oscars this year in terms of inclusion, beyond just winners. But every awards show should sing the Grammys’ tune.
Contributing: Melissa Ruggieri, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism