BTS fails to take home Grammy after first nomination
BTS failed to take home an award from the Grammys, leading fans to criticize the Recording Academy's failure to recognize the global popularity BTS has seen over the last year.
The 63rd Grammy Awards was held online on Monday Korean time, after being postponed from Jan. 31 due to Covid-19. Most of the award winners were announced at the Premiere Ceremony, a ceremony held before the official event. The official awards ceremony aired on cable channel Mnet in Korea.
BTS was nominated for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award for “Dynamite” (2020), the band’s first all-English dance track released in August. The award was established in 2012 and recognizes new vocal or instrumental duos, groups or collaborative pop recordings. The award goes to singles or individual tracks only. Although Korean classical musicians or gugak (traditional Korean music) musicians have been nominated and honored by the Grammys in the past, it was the first time for any musician from the genre of K-pop to be recognized.
The Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award went to Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga's "Rain On Me" (2020).
The anticipation for K-pop’s first award was more than high. Not only did the septet nab K-pop’s first-ever No. 1 ranking on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in September with “Dynamite,” the band was also invited to perform as a nominee at the awards ceremony — a first for any K-pop act. The Grammys also announced a new list of 1,340 voting members of the Recording Academy in June 2019 including both BTS and its agency Big Hit Entertainment’s mastermind Bang Si-hyuk. The voting members are responsible for deciding who gets nominations and the awards.
Fans have since taken to the Grammys’ official social media accounts, namely Twitter, to criticize the Recording Academy’s decision, which they are calling “xenophobic” and “racist.” In addition to the success of “Dynamite,” the band’s fourth full-length album “Map of the Soul: 7” released in February last year was the No. 1 selling album in the world according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
“Anyone can see how absolutely robbed they were of that award, and no, I will not pretend it’s okay, it’s not,” reads a comment that fans have been collectively posting on tweets from the Grammy’s account. Other comments pointed out that the awards invited, or “used,” BTS to perform “to increase their audience,” while others called out the awards show for “undermining their own credibility.”
The Grammy Awards has often been subjected to criticism from musicians and the press. The New York Times wrote last year in November on the 2021 Grammy nominations, that, “These choices always draw eye rolls among journalists, who [with good reason] want the Grammys to reflect the pulse of contemporary music.”
“For the umpteenth time, the Grammys went with familiarity over risk, bestowing album of the year honors [and several more] on an album that reinforced the values of an older generation suspicious of change,” read another New York Times article from 2012.
Rapper Eminem has also been vocal about his negative feelings toward the Grammy Awards. In a 2018 interview, he said “Don’t get us all here to use as your selling point for your show and stiff everybody every single time.” He called the voting board “fake” and said the Recording Academy gives votes to “who they want to give it to.”
Canadian singer The Weeknd called the Grammy “corrupt” last year on Twitter and Instagram, after his mega-hit “Blinding Lights” (2019) failed to win any nominations at the 63rd Grammy Awards. The posts were liked by Katy Perry, who has been nominated 13 times but has never won an award.
“The majority of the voting members for the Grammys consist of middle-aged white males,” music critic Kim Zakka told the Korea JoongaAng Daily in a phone interview after the awards ceremony. “Its conservatism goes both musically and ethnically. Seeing how The Weeknd wasn’t recognized this year, Beyonce in 2017 and Kendrick Lamar in 2016 and so on, they display their reluctance to accept music from minority or smaller groups. Even the hip-hop genre hasn’t been fully accepted for the last 10 years.”
The nomination itself is obviously monumental. From being accepted as voting members of the Recording Academy to presenting an award last year and performing at the ceremony, BTS has slowly been forging a path into the mainstream American music market — a feat in itself, according to music critic Kim Young-dae.
"It always takes time for a new phenomenon to be accepted by the mainstream," Kim said. "It may have been slow, but every step along the way has been earned by the group. This feat is going to stick with them for the rest of their career, just as music albums that are 'Grammy-nominated' are honored for that title. This is an accomplishment that's been made by the accumulation of the reputation they have built for themselves over the years."
Professor Lee Gyu-tag, who teaches pop music and media studies at George Mason University Korea, pointed out that despite BTS’s years of blood, sweat and tears, the Recording Academy’s refusal to accept K-pop or other teen-pop music genres as a form of “proper music” is evident of the invisible wall that keeps non-American and non-white singers from getting the credit they deserve.
“People think that the American music market would be open and global, but it’s not,” said Lee. “A barrier exists for singers of other ethnicities regardless of how popular they are, and often shoved aside to a category separate from their mainstream pop music genre. It’s quite a one-sided global market, where the U.S. welcomes its songs being listened to by people from other countries, but it doesn’t welcome songs from different cultures or languages.”
Following the Grammy announcement, member Suga wrote on the band’s official Weverse fan community app, “Let’s go again,” while member Jimin thanked ARMY, the name of the band's fans, for “the unbelievable experience.”
There was a time eight years ago when BTS was considered just one among many K-pop boy bands on the scene. Their name, the Bulletproof Boys, was made fun of, their songs were criticized for being too tough for K-pop and their fandom for being overly zealous. With no money to rent a venue for a fan meet-and-greet in 2013, the band had to meet with 32 fans who showed up at a signing event in an empty shopping mall. Their goal was “to survive,” according to members during their debut showcase on June 12, 2013.
The band has come a long way since that meet and greet. Fans gathered in the streets of London ahead of their 2019 world tour just to catch a glimpse of their digital advert, proving that whether or not their efforts are recognized, the journey the band has taken needs no awards to continue its record-breaking success.