In 2018, the academy also expanded the number of nominees in the top categories to eight from five, and increased that number again to 10 nominees in a last-minute change in 2021, potentially adding more unpredictability to the results.
Yet for many Grammy observers, Beyoncé is indeed a barometer of the awards’ complex treatment of Black musicians overall.
“It’s always rocky,” said Cipha Sounds, a veteran radio personality now with 94.7 The Block, a throwback hip-hop and R&B station in New York. “It feels like they don’t give the same amount of love that they do to other genres, but when they do it feels kind of forced,” as if the academy has to “check the diversity boxes,” he added.
Still, he said, Black artists and fans crave the affirmation that comes with winning a Grammy. “We just want regular credit,” he said.
For the academy, a nonprofit group that draws the bulk of its revenue from fees related to the television broadcast, attracting eyeballs to the annual show is vital. Those numbers have been sliding for years. In 2021, 8.8 million viewers watched the show, an all-time low; last year, it was 8.9 million.
At the same time, the Super Bowl halftime show has emerged as perhaps the most gargantuan media event in music — last year an average of 103.4 million people watched a nostalgic hip-hop segment with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and others — and this year’s show, on Feb. 12, featuring Rihanna, has been bubbling for weeks as a huge pop-culture moment. Recently, an email bounced around the offices of Billboard magazine. “Music’s Biggest Night is coming up,” it read. “And a week earlier, there’s the Grammys!”