Always The Bridesmaid: The Grammys and R&B

India-ArieThe Grammys have had a love/hate relationship with Rhythm and Blues over the years. Who can forget India.Arie’s infamous 7 nominations and all of the publicity surrounding them, only to be snubbed? Legendary artists like Gerald Levert never received the prestigious award until after their deaths. With the 2013 Grammys right around the corner and the multiple nominations for artists such as Miguel, Frank Ocean, Luke James, and others, will R&B once again be shut out?

This past winter when the 2013 Grammy Award Nominees were announced, the R&B world was in delight to see its elite artists being honored. Crooners like Anthony Hamilton, Usher, Miguel, and newcomers Frank Ocean, Elle Varner, and Luke James led the R&B categories with quality vocals and content. For some, this was a bittersweet moment; it is no secret that the Grammys have shared a rocky relationship with the category of R&B over the last 15 years. Gone are the days of the 90s, when acts like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, and Lauryn Hill dominated awards show with their soulful performances and shining moments. With the exception of a few high spots, the genre has largely been snubbed as of late.

Let’s give the Recording Academy credit. Very talented artists such as Chrisette Michele, Melanie Fiona, Cee-Lo Green, and others have taken home the gold in years past. Independent artists such as Eric Roberson, The Foreign Exchange, and Anthony David have seen how a nomination can drastically bring up their stocks. However, we also remember a new artist by the name of India.Arie, who was nominated in an outstanding seven categories. Critically acclaimed and commercially promoted, we watched week after week of advertising featuring the soul singer in anticipation of the awards. We watched aimlessly all night after each category was called. Seven times presenters called the name of India.Arie, and not one of those times was she the winner. It is regarded to this day as the worst Grammy snub of all time (it should be noted that India.Arie handled the snub with grace, and later in her career won four Grammys).

Lady India isn’t the only R&B snub by the Grammys. There is a laundry list of legendary black musicians who, despite their impact and enormous success, never hit gold. Would you consider it shocking that Diana Ross, perhaps the most influential female singer of all time, has never won a Grammy? How about Brian McKnight, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Nina Simone, or Chuck Berry? Would it also surprise you that Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Gerald Levert only received awards after they died? These artists are not only synonymous with black music, they are synonymous with music period.  One final knife to the back is the fact that nearly half of the awards in the R&B category have been cut.

Quite frankly, no one is ever going to be satisfied with the outcomes of award shows unless your name is Adele. Even with our issues with it, the Grammy Awards is an institution that we respect. For R&B music, it would behoove us to not only hold the Grammys in high regard, but to also hold in high regard other awards that celebrate our entertainers. It’s the Soul Train Awards, BET Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and many others that we should put on a pedestal just as high as the Recording Academy.

Good luck to the R&B artists nominated for a Grammy this year. We’re rooting for you all!

–Nick Eden

Nick Eden is a singer/songwriter/R&B junkie based out of Atlanta, GA. He is a winner of the Steve Harvey New Star Project and has recently appeared on BET/Centric’s Apollo Live. His new album Soul|Reloaded will be available January 2013. Experience his love of R&B at and follow him on Twitter @nickeden.

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