7 musicians who have called for positive change to the Grammy Awards

The Weeknd, Grimes, and Trent Reznor are among the many musician critics of the once-heralded Grammy Awards. 

Ah, the Grammys. Once the prized marker of a musician’s commercial and critical success — and home to some truly iconic moments (like the birth of Google Images) — the ceremony has, in recent years, come under fire by a swathe of artists who’ve advocated for change to what they argue are systemic issues within the Recording Academy.

Grammys trophies
Credit: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Granted, some of these musicians have only criticised the Grammys following a perceived snub, but the sheer number of artists who’ve levelled accusations against the awards body gives significant weight to the points they’ve raised. We’ve even been critical of the ceremony here at Happy Mag, but we aren’t the only ones. Here’s some musicians who have called for positive change to the Grammy Awards.

The Weeknd demands “transparency” following After Hours snub.

The collective mouths of music fans the world over were left agape in 2020, when The Weeknd’s fourth studio album After Hours received a total of zero nominations. The snub heard ‘round the world was especially surprising given that the album’s single, Blinding Lights, broke multiple records and remains one of Billboard’s most successful songs in history. The Weeknd quipped back on Twitter, demanding voter “transparency” for himself, fans and the music industry at large.


Trent Reznor says the voting systems is a “popularity contest.

Trent Reznor led accusations of the Grammys’ favouritism of more commercially-successful artists way back in 2011. The Nine Inch Nails frontman, who has collected two trophies throughout his career, criticised the Academy’s disregard for lower-selling bodies of work, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the ceremony “feels rigged and cheap.” He continued: “[It’s] like a popularity contest that the insiders club has decided.” 

Trent Reznor on Oscars red carpet
Credit: ABC via Getty Images

Frank Ocean calls out the Grammys’ “cultural bias.

Frank Ocean has been involved in a tit-for-tat with the Grammys since 2017, when he chose to withdraw his album Blonde from consideration at that year’s event. Afterwards, Grammys executives commented on the singer’s 2013 performance at the ceremony, which was marred by technical. Ocean then took to Tumblr for a fiery response

Yea yea my 2013 performance at the Grammys was absolute shit,” he wrote. “You think that’s why I kept my work out of the Grammy process this year?… Blonde sold a million plus without a label, that’s successful. If you’re up for a discussion about the cultural bias and general nerve damage the show you produce suffers from then I’m all for it.”   

Zayn Malik addresses favouritism, bureaucracy and “networking politics.

Echoing similar sentiments to Reznor, former One Direction bandmate Zayn Malik accused the Grammys of systemic bureaucracy and favouritism. “Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations,” Malik wrote on twitter. He went on to claim that the “favouritism, racism, and networking politics” of the Academy has an influence on the voting process. Wiz Khalifa shared a similar view in 2020, writing that “If you don’t show up to their parties, they don’t throw your name around.

Nicki Minaj suggests the Academy favours white artists.

She’s hardly the first artist to call for racial equality at the Grammys, but Nicki Minaj’s 2020 mention of Bon Iver’s win over her was perhaps the most pointed. Iver collected the trophy for Best New Artist in 2012, despite Minaj releasing her uber-successful Pink Friday that same year. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver,” the rapper wrote in a 2020 tweet. 

Ariana Grande says Academy executives “stifle” creativity.

In 2019, Ariana Grande was set to perform at the Grammys, but dropped out of the show unexpectedly days prior. During an interview following the pop star’s exit, an Academy executive claimed that it was “too late for her to pull something together.” In response, Grande said he was “lying about me”, before saying the Academy “stifled” her creativity in organising the performance. 

Ariana Grande performs at the Grammys
Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

I can pull together a performance over night and you know that,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet thread. “It was when my creativity & self expression was stifled that I decided not to attend.” She continued: “It’s about collaboration. It’s about feeling supported. It’s about art and honesty. not politics, not doing favours or playing games.” 

Grimes calls out the age of Academy voters.

In what is the most recent criticism of the Grammys, Grimes yesterday (February 6) shared support for Charli XCX, following her nominations snubs for 2022 album Crash. The Grammys are so irrelevant,” she commented on XCX’s Instagram. “When I Was on the producer of the year board, they quite literally would not allow me to nominate anyone who wasn’t on a pre fabricated list that was exceptionally boring.” Grimes continued: “I was one of 3 women and the only person under 40 for sure. It’s literally not a relevant thing. I tried to nominate Sophie and was told that wasn’t allowed.


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