Updated as of 4/3/2022 at 12 a.m. ET
Jon Batiste closed out this years Grammy Awards sweeping up Album of the Year with “We Are.” We haven’t seen a Black artist win Album of the Year at the Grammys since 2008 which was Herbie Hancock for “River: The Joni Letters.” Now, Batiste has continued making history as a Black artist to win in this major category.
In the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, Doja Cat, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Jon Batiste and Kanye West were in the running to win Album of the Year. We’ve come a long way since the first win which was Stevie Wonder with “Innervisions” in 1974. However, it was necessary at times to address the bias in how the Recording Academy picks their winners.
Remember: Adele even suggested in her acceptance speech upon winning Album of the Year that Beyoncé should’ve won instead for “Lemonade.”
More on racial bias in the Grammys from NPR:
Here are some facts, laid out by music scholar John Vilanova when Taylor Swift won the 2016 album of the year in a field that included the widely praised rapper Kendrick Lamar. “In the last ten years, there have been seventeen nonwhite artists nominated for the Grammy Award for album of the year,” Vilanova wrote.
“Of those seventeen, the only winner was Herbie Hancock in 2008. His album was a collection of covers of songs by the white folk artist Joni Mitchell.” Vilanova goes on to explain that the categories beyond the top four, which reflect genre and radio format distinctions, are racially marked. Lemonade, for example, won best urban contemporary album. She’s only won once in a major category, in 2009, for “Single Ladies.” Nearly all of her other 20 gramophones are in the R&B category.
“Many well-meaning people often have a hard time understanding what systemic racism looks like,” Vilanova writes. “This is what systemic racism looks like.”
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Black artists kept a steady winning streak from Michael Jackson in 1984 (because how couldn’t “Thriller” win AOTY?) to Outkast in 2004. The most person of color to win was Bruno Mars in 2017 for “24k Magic.”
Hopefully, as we keep dominating the nominations, we will see another Black artist next year keep the winning streak with another victory.