At the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, the popular Korean boyband BTS was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group. When they left empty-handed, Korean fans and critics alike were outraged – not by the loss itself but by what appeared to be the Grammy’s exploitation of the group’s popularity to improve their own declining viewership.
Korean online streaming hosts and media commented on the unusual ordering of the award categories. The category in which BTS was nominated is typically announced online before the awards. This year, however, it was announced right before the last main award. This led many observers to speculate whether Grammy organizers used BTS to keep fans watching until nearly the end of the ceremony.
BTS was the first K-pop group to perform at the Grammys and became the first K-pop act nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group in 2021. The single “Butter”, for which they received their second nomination, was the longest-running no. 1 hit in America in 2021. The group won Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards (AMA), and several Billboard music awards. Fans and critics are asking what more the group must do to be recognized by the Grammys.
Western critics noted the undercurrent of racism and xenophobia that may impact the Grammy’s treatment of groups like BTS. Unlike the AMAs and Billboard, which are fan and chart-driven, Grammys are awarded by members of the National Academy of Records Arts and Sciences. The academy has been criticized for its poor track record of recognizing non-white artists and using artists like Beyonce to increase viewership while never rewarding the artist.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Kayla Harris, David Lee, Sarah Marshall, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of Thank You (22 Millions+) views