Superstars May Be Rebelling Against the Grammys

Kanye West at the 2006 Grammys
Reuters / Robert Galbraith

Frank Ocean made what’s widely considered one of the best albums of last year, but he won’t be at the ceremony meant to recognize the best in music—the Grammys. This is by choice: He didn’t submit Blond(e) for consideration. In November, he told The New York Times that the Recording Academy “doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from,” noting that black artists have rarely won Album of the Year. He added that sitting the awards out would be his “Colin Kaepernick moment,” a reference to the San Francisco 49ers player who took a knee during the National Anthem to protest America’s racist history.

Ocean’s decision to boycott signaled wider discontent with the Grammys, and it may have even started a chain reaction of pop-star protest. TMZ reports that Drake, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber may all also skip the awards show because it’s “irrelevant.” While the news hasn’t been confirmed elsewhere, it would fit a general trend of artists rebelling against their industries’ gatekeepers in what might be the most effective way possible: by withholding their star power.

West has a long and infamous history of sparring with the Grammys—even as he racked up 21 trophies from them over the years. The most famous example came in 2015 when West hopped onstage as Beck’s folksy Morning Phase won the Album of the Year prize over Beyonce’s self-titled tour de force. For him and many others, Beck’s win embodied the great Grammy hypocrisy: It profits from boundary-pushing popular black artists by having them at the ceremony, but tends to reserve its top awards for more musically conservative white artists.

While many saw the moment as another example of West’s vanity, really he’d been…