2020 Grammys: Billie Eilish sweeps top categories amidst institutional controversy

Ariana+Grande%2C+Lil+Nas+X%2C+Billie+Eilish%2C+Vampire+Weekend%2C+Lizzo%2C+and+H.E.R.+were+all+nominated+for+Album+of+the+Year.

Ransom Bergen

Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, Vampire Weekend, Lizzo, and H.E.R. were all nominated for Album of the Year.

Luke Spicer, Staff Writer

The 62nd annual Grammy awards aired this past Sunday, January 26th, awarding the stars of the music industry with some of the highest possible accolades in the recording world. The evening began with a touching number of tributes to the recently and suddenly deceased Kobe Bryant, the Lakers legend who was killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash, with artists ranging from Alicia Keys, Lizzo, and all the way to Billy Ray Cyrus. Just as his jerseys hung up above the musical artists in Staples Center, the “Black Mamba” lived on through the touching tributes of the evening.

Though a host of artists were nominated and won for individual categories, winning big Sunday night was the 18-year-old up-and-comer Billie Eilish and her brother/producer Finneas O’Connell, who managed to take home a whopping five Grammys for their 2019 record-breaking album, “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and standout single “Bad Guy,” with wins for Song of the Year, Pop-Vocal Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year. 

When the award for Album of the Year was being announced, the talented young artist was seen repeating the word “No” over and over before being awarded the accolade, and even then telling the crowd in her brief acceptance speech that she didn’t believe she deserved the Grammy.

“Can I just say that I think Ariana Grande deserves this?” Eilish said before making a relatively quick exit. 

As Eilish knew, many of her wins this past Sunday came at the cost of artists such as Lil Nas X, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and others losing out, all of whom produced commercially and critically acclaimed albums and tracks in 2019. Eilish’s wins last Sunday, however, came at a time where many are harshly criticizing the Grammys for their lack of diversity among the chosen winners. 

These critics largely stem from the recent bombshell accusations from former Grammy executive Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave for supposed workplace “misconduct,” a claim that Dugan starkly denies. Instead, as Dugan laid out in her multi-million dollar lawsuit targeting the Academy, the former executive accused the Academy of systemic sexism, bogus voting irregularities, and a blatant coverup of former Grammy’s President, Neil Portnow, rape of a prominent (and currently anonymous) female artist several years back. 

Though still an ongoing investigation, these claims of racism and misogyny laid out by Dugan are consistent with a recent study published showing that between 2013 and 2019, only 10.4% of Grammy Nominees were women, and an even fewer percentage of those women were winners in their respective categories. Dugan’s claims also laid out that the voting process for the Academy is dominated not by the many votes of the diverse voting members, but rather instead is “rigged” by the few most powerful and influential, a group that Dugan says is comprised mainly by “older white men.”

Dugan’s claims are supported by a recent study published this past year, which reported that of all the nominations for the Grammys between 2013 and 2019, only a marginal 10.4% were women, and an even smaller percentage of those nominated won in their respective categories. 

With Eilish’s sweep this year, many are hopeful that this impressive showing by a young female artist will be the first signs of a new age of diversity and fair voting process for the Grammy Academy.