Do we really need an Asian Grammys?

The Recording Academy is considering creating an Asian Grammy Awards, sparking debate over representation and the future of K-pop recognition

BTS at the 64th Grammy Awards

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K-pop may soon see a Grammy win, but with a significant twist. The Korea Times recently reported that the Recording Academy is exploring the creation of an Asian Grammy Awards. This consideration follows meetings between Recording Academy President Panos Panay, CEO Harvey Mason Jr., and key industry leaders from HYBE, YG Entertainment, Kakao, CJ ENM, Naver, and KT during their visit to Korea. The duo also discussed potential venues with officials from Seoul, Incheon, and Hanam, suggesting Korea as the likely host for the inaugural event.

In a previous interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mason highlighted the Academy’s global outreach efforts, stating they are “going to every corner of the world to learn and understand what’s happening and where we might be able to be helpful or in service.” However, the potential launch of the Asian Grammys has already sparked skepticism online.

Critics argue that an Asian Grammys could marginalize Asian artists further from the main Grammy categories. Some K-pop fans fear their idols may never win a standard Grammy because Academy members lack an understanding of K-pop. To date, BTS is the only K-pop act nominated for a Grammy, first recognized in 2021 for “Dynamite” in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. Since then, BTS has garnered four more nominations across 2022 and 2023, but this year saw a complete shutout for K-pop artists.

Another critique questions the necessity of a Grammy for K-pop. While the Grammy Awards, held annually since 1959, retain prestige as a marker of artistry and cultural impact, they face longstanding criticisms, particularly for excluding Black artists and other artists of color from major categories like Album of the Year. If the Grammys struggle to recognize talented mainstream artists of color, what hope exists for international artists?

The Recording Academy also created the Latin Grammys in 2000 to recognize works recorded in Spanish and Portuguese, but it was also met with initial criticism that it would just be a means to segregate artists from the primary Grammys. That concern is not entirely unfounded. A record number eight songs soared to the number one spot on Spotify’s global charts in 2023, but the 2024 Grammys failed to nominate any Latin artists for the categories of Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Rapper Ice Spice received a nomination for Best New Artist, but her music is in English. What genres and artists get nominated for a Grammy or Latin Grammy will always be subject to hot debate, but if an organization will tout itself as an authority, it needs to accurately and thoughtfully represent music across its many spectrums, and the history that comes with it. The Latin Grammys decision to host its first ever international ceremony in Spain was met with swift backlash due to the contentious colonial history of Spain in relation to Latin countries. As NPR puts it, “By moving the Latin Grammys to Spain and continuing to embrace European artists, the Latin Academy is mirroring the ways in which whiteness and its privileges are disproportionately valued in Latine communities, both in and outside of the U.S.” 

Whether or not the Recording Academy will play fast and loose with representation for the Asian Grammys is yet to be determined, but the institution’s history of doing so within their own creations gives pause. The Asian diaspora is massive. Will the Asian Grammys just be predominantly K-pop and artists from East Asia or will it fairly include South Asian and Southeast Asian artists too?   

Winning a Grammy shouldn’t define an artist's success or creative worth. Artists should not grant such weight to an institution with a history of bias. The K-pop industry, in particular, already boasts numerous awards of their own. Korean award ceremonies include the Asia Artist Awards, Circle Chart Music Awards, Fact Music Awards, Genie Music Awards, Golden Disc Awards, Hanteo Music Awards, Korean Music Awards, MAMA Awards, Melon Music Awards, Seoul Music Awards, and Soompi Awards. Additionally, K-pop dominates global album sales. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the top five album sales, vinyl records, and streaming albums of 2023 were all by K-pop acts: SEVENTEEN, Stray Kids, and NCT Dream, with Taylor Swift at number six. These accolades and sales records underscore Asian excellence and global impact, independent of Grammy recognition.

But should the day come when a K-pop act does win one, there shouldn’t be an asterisk attached. BTS, BLACKPINK, IU, won a Grammy award. End of story. 

Published on June 18, 2024

Words by Daniel Anderson

Daniel Anderson is a disabled Chinese American adoptee based in Seattle. His freelance writing specialties include K-pop, entertainment, and food. He believes that any restaurant can be a buffet, and the key to success is to take a nap each day. Follow his adventures on Instagram @danzstan.