In this op-ed, Danielle Kwateng-Clark discusses Halsey's American Music Awards speech about how award shows are "a fairytale," and how they don't recognize the accomplishments of women.
At the 2019 American Music Awards, Halsey made perhaps the most surprising and spot-on speech of the night. While accepting her statue for her Favorite Pop/Rock Song win for “Without Me,” the singer said, "These metaphors, these trophies that were supposed to be some kind of validation for the soul-crushing and heartache-inducing work of writing a song and bringing it to life. And to be honest with you, I really believed that fairy tale.”
Many took her remarks to be a swipe at the Grammys, which released their nominations last week to criticisms about her own snub as well as the lack of recognition of international artists like BTS and Burna Boy. Though the 2020 Grammy nominations honored women at either 50% or more of the four main categories (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist), it still felt like there was something lacking.
You can find that lack in the genre categories of awards shows, where at both the American Music Awards and the Grammys, women are seriously underrepresented. At the AMAs, the Latin and EDM categories didn’t even have women nominees that could take home an award. When the Grammys air on Jan. 26, Cardi B will be the only woman competing across four (four!) assorted rap categories … but as a featured artist on a song with her husband Offset for Best Rap Performance.
When it comes to public accolades, the music industry overlooking women is no new idea. While in many ways award ceremonies have gotten more inclusive with nominations and performance selections, the artists actually taking home wins — or being billed for major festivals — doesn't always reflect the diversity in music that fans know is there. Even Taylor Swift, an awards darling with immense critical and commercial success who was literally awarded Artist of the Decade at the AMAs, didn’t manage to snag an Album of the Year Grammy nom for Lover. It’s all arbitrary. It’s barely real. Awards do still hold weight within the industry as a way to boost access to resources, but the system is flawed. (And let’s not forget that if ratings are anything to go by, audiences don’t actually care about award ceremonies at all).
As Halsey basically said, awards are bullsh*t, given out for a variety of reasons, many of which don’t include actual music quality or impact.
Megan Thee Stallion, one of 2019’s breakout stars, was also snubbed by the 2020 Grammys, getting no nominations at all despite releasing the ubiquitous cultural phrase-turned-single "Hot Girl Summer" in August.
Not so coincidentally, Megan was also not nominated for an American Music Award, despite her highly-lauded mixtape, Fever, and her penchant for off-the-cuff freestyles. Though she wasn’t nominated, she attended the ceremony to present Best Rap Song, which would go to Lil Nas X.
After the ceremony, just before getting into a big black car, Megan decided to do a freestyle, still wearing her red Jessica Rabbit-inspired gown. Her rap waxes poetic about dating rumors and haters, improvising lines like “I guess a b*tch like me gotta get up and show em how it go.” On Twitter, the replies to the Houston rapper’s freestyle were thrilled and glowing, with high praise from fans. Comedian and writer Grace Spelman tweeted about the impromptu performance, “Leaving the AMAs and giving the best performance of the whole night.....”
It was the perfect echo to Halsey’s own words at the end of her speech. “I’m thankful to the fans,” she said, “because they are the people who really give a sh*t about music.”
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue