BTS' Grammy Treatment Draws Attention To Award Show Legitimacy
By Sasha Margulies, iHeart MediaMar 16, 2021
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards aired last night on CBS to a reported 7.88 million viewers, featuring a star-studded lineup of performances and award recipients from Beyoncé to Megan Thee Stallion to Taylor Swift. Among the impressive cast of names is none brighter than BTS, the superstar septet heralding from South Korea, whose performance of their chart-topping single "Dynamite" and first-ever Grammy award nomination were undoubtedly some of the most highly anticipated moments for the ceremony. However, fans of the Seoul titans were met with disappointment from the treatment shown to BTS from the prestigious award ceremony.
For those not in the know, BTS, or Bangtan Sonyeondan, are a seven-member band stemming from the K-Pop industry and currently setting the music world on fire. From a monstrously beefy list of musical achievements and broken records over a span of 7 years as a group, just a taste of their most recent accomplishments include their all English-single,“Dynamite,” topping the U.S. charts, becoming the first band in history to have their latest album Be debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the same week as their single "Life Goes On," and in October selling nearly a million tickets to a two-night live streamed concert event. They have been credited by ARMYs (official fandom name of BTS) and non-ARMYs alike as trailblazers in their field, establishing themselves as worldwide sensations thanks to powerful self-produced hits tackling themes from mental health advocacy to youth empowerment, combined with flashy choreography, cultural awareness and activism via partnered philanthropy efforts and, despite their almost otherworldly fame and success, demonstrating world class humility by communicating their love and appreciation for fans on an impressively consistent level on various social media platforms.
With just about every checkbox clicked off for the Korean megastars, an award from music's penultimate ceremony only seemed like the next logical step on their career ladder - the odds seeing themselves increasingly in BTS' favor when they were announced as nominees for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category in November. Even alongside powerhouse competition like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga, there was an undeniable buzz going for the first-time Grammy noms following the undeniable domestic and international success of "Dynamite" for serious winning contention. This was only encouraged by the Recording Academy and broadcast partner CBS, who notably used BTS' likeness for constant marketing and promotional materials leading up to the show to keep the interest of ARMYs and their intensely vehement digital media presence - common practice as of late noted by fans from brands and organizations who use the group's name for explosive social media numbers. With so much hype building up, it seemed the pop giants were shoe-ins to make history as the first ever K-Pop based group to be nominated, and potentially win, a Grammy music category.
That was until it was announced earlier this week that the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Category, an award traditionally aired on the main show broadcast, would be moved to the Grammy Pre-Show ceremony. Fans called out the last-minute switch from prime time exposure to a live stream, considering the award was so massively anticipated. This included outrage for other popular categories like R&B and Rap moved as well without explanation - adding to the growing narrative of the Grammys mistreating POC artists. On top of the sudden programming shift, it was announced that "Rain On Me," the pop dance track by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, ultimately took home the award. ARMYs were devastated, considering BTS' single statistically outperformed the other nominated contenders in the category. It seemed the final straw for fans was when it came time for BTS' main stage pre-recorded Grammy performance, only to find that BTS were slated for the end of the three and a half hour broadcast after hours of the Recording Academy teasing the group "coming up soon" throughout the show as a move to secure viewership. This prompted immediate outrage on social media directed at the show, with fans and music critics trending #Scammys worldwide within minutes to voice their displeasure.
This is notably not the first time BTS or other musicians have experienced this kind of treatment from the Recording Academy - artists like The Weeknd and Zayn Malik have even voiced their frustrations over the Grammys using celebrities for ceremony attention but refusing to award them for their musical achievements, and boycotted the show altogether. There is a growing trend of these conversations coming up more often than ever for award ceremony validity within the entertainment industry - even the 2021 Oscar nominations had some raised eyebrows at some obvious snubs towards black and POC performers.
While this in no way hinders BTS' established success and legitimacy as critically acclaimed artists, it does ultimately call into question the relevancy of the Grammys as a pinnacle achievement for musicians. Should artists continue to submit their bodies of work for Grammy awards when it seems time and time again the traditionalist method of voting within the RCA only favors the most recognizable names within the industry? With acts like BTS establishing historic legacies outside of the Recording Academy, there could be a future shift of consumers passing on award shows altogether if the narrative continues that these organizations do not value all avenues of artistry, and refuse to give credit where credit is due. As more and more cultural awareness spreads via the online forums everyday, artist recognition will only continue to be a forefront issue for these organized ceremonies, and artists, critics and viewers alike will be making the ultimate decision whether or not entertainers even need these events for relevancy, or if it's actually the other way around.