arts + entertainment

If #OscarsSoWhite is 2016 #GrammysSoBlack

For the second year in a row, “when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its 2016 Oscar nominees, only white actors and actresses were among the chosen few in the top four categories.”

via LA / A.M.P.A.S.

via LA / A.M.P.A.S.

For the second year in a row, Twitter saw the resurgence of #OscarsSoWhite, a hashtag created by April Reign in January of 2015.

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After much outrage, the Academy responded with “extensive new rules includ[ing] a commitment to doubling the number of women and minorities in the academy by 2020 and limiting lifetime voting rights.” 

The Los Angeles Times reports academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs as believing “It’s the right thing to do.” According to Isaacs, “We've been a more than predominantly white institution for a long time. We thought, we've got to change this and reflect the community much better."

via Billboard

via Billboard

With all the recent Oscars publicity, one can’t help but shift attention to the upcoming Grammys. 

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Having been on the receiving end of its own backlash and accusations of racism, the Grammys is often criticized for snubbing black artists, relegating their nominations to R&B or urban categories while excluding them from major categories like Song and Record.

But could 2016 represent a change in race relations for the Grammys?

With Record of the Year nominations for D'Angelo And The Vanguard’s “Really Love,” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face;” Album of the Year Nominations for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and The Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness;” and a Song of the Year nomination for Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” some might be willing to say so.

Important here is not just the fact that black artists are being recognized in top categories, but that (at least when considering D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar’s work) the music being recognized is markedly black, or at least markedly non-white, as well.

D’Angelo’s “Really Love” opens with “swelling strings,” giving way to a Spanish guitar, which sets the stage for a woman’s hushed address to her jealous, possessive lover. The lyrics sung by D’Angelo present a vulnerable figure (“When you look at me / I open up instantly / I fall in love so quickly”) grateful for the patience of his lover (“I'm not an easy man, to overstand, you feel me / But girl you’re patient with me”). Released on Black Messiah – an album Craig Jenkins calls the “dictionary of soul,” an album released as response to “national unrest [and] unprosecuted police officer involved shootings in Ferguson, MO and New York City” – "Really Love" offers an intimate peek into the messiness of love. Some might suggest it as an outlier to the rest of the album, though, its existence feels more a reminder that the black and brown resist, and yes, they get to experience love too.

Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” named by Complex’s Justin Charity as an “undeniably ... important album” even if not “a conventionally enjoyable record,” is recognized by most for its “overwhelming blackness.” Songs like “Alright” and “King Kunta” immediately resonated with black listeners; Cleveland protesters even used Lamar’s lyrics in direct protest to police violence.

We can't predict how future Grammys history will unfold.

But whether this year is a fluke or catalyst for trend, with nominations in the top categories as well as artistically competitive nominations in the Best R&B, Best Rap, and Best Urban Contemporary categories, it seems that the Grammy awards stand a chance of being, if not overwhelmingly, somewhat celebratorily black.

(This story was originally written by khoLi. and published with uiculture.com)

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