Why Blackpink didn’t get a Grammy nomination and what K-pop’s biggest girl group should do to get one
- Blackpink are one of the biggest groups in music today, but that wasn’t enough to secure them a Grammy Awards nomination
- Industry insiders in the United States and South Korea share what the K-pop superstars need to do to get noticed next time
By Dong Sun-hwa
Hardly anyone doubts that Blackpink have accomplished much this year.
The four-piece K-pop sensation – comprising Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé and Lisa – became the first South Korean girl band to sell more than a million albums with the October release of The Album, which debuted at No 2 on America's Billboard 200 chart and topped the iTunes album chart in 57 regions around the world.
The quartet's followers and several media outlets, including Billboard, expected the group's name to be on the nominee list for the 63rd Grammy Awards (January 31, 2021) – which are among the world's most prestigious music awards. But this did not happen.
So what would it take for Blackpink to have the honour? What challenges should the group overcome to get enough recognition? The Korea Times contacted industry experts in Korea and the US to get the answers.
A greater display of artistry and creativity could be key, according to Billboard's K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin, who has also written for the Post.
“To be noticed at the Grammys, I think the artists first need to show that they are credible musicians,” Benjamin told the Korea Times.
“It would be extremely beneficial for Blackpink to open up more about themselves as artists and the way the members contribute to their music and overall work.
“In the case of The Album , Jisoo and Jennie were part of writing the lead track Lovesick Girls. I wish they spoke more about this in interviews, as it is a very impressive accomplishment.
“Without that credibility, it is challenging to be taken seriously, because the Grammys are believed to honour excellence in popular music.”
Seoul-based critic Jung Min-jae, who writes for music magazine IZM, agrees. He said one of the challenges for Blackpink is to exhibit artistic integrity that could impress the Grammys’ organiser, The Recording Academy, an American association of music professionals.
Jung also underscored the significance of having “a more impactful hit song”.
“Blackpink’s summer song Ice Cream, which featured pop star Selena Gomez, debuted at No 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but slipped to No 49 in the second week. This implies that the track was not widely appreciated by the general public in the US for enough time,” Jung said.
“I believe the quartet needs a more impactful song like BTS's Dynamite. If Blackpink prove their staying power on the top spots of the Hot 100 chart and set a meaningful record, this would help the band take a leap forward in the US.”
The critic noted that Blackpink have the chance of being nominated next year.
“A number of foreign media outlets mentioned the band‘s name as a potential nominee this year,” Jung said.
“This means that Blackpink is standing out in the US, so I think it can set its sights on a Grammy nomination next year, possibly in the best pop duo/group performance category.”
But industry experts point out that it is crucial to understand the Grammys system, which is making it more challenging for singers like Blackpink.
“Since its inception in 2012, the Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance has yet to include an American female pop group in its nominations, let alone an international one,” Lee told the Korea Times. “Conversely, the category has embraced male pop groups, with Backstreet Boys in 2019 and BTS in 2021.”
Blackpink’s big and powerful international fandom cannot help much to bring about its nomination. “Unlike the Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards – where fans can play a role in the nomination and voting process – the Grammys voting system is comprised [only] of professionally vetted musicians,” Lee said.
“For the Grammys Pop category, academy members vote on the first-round ballots to determine the final nominees. Additionally, it is helpful to receive support from rank-and-file voting members to gain entry into the Big Four categories: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year and best new artist.”
Patty Ahn, a communications professor at the University of California, San Diego, who studies Korean pop culture, is one of the critics of the Grammys' conservative system.
“There is nothing the band can do more now,” Ahn said. “Looking back over the past 10 to 15 years, people would see the Grammys‘ overwhelming bias toward white artists.”
Ahn continued: “According to a University of Southern California 2018 study, men have been dominating the Big Four categories, where women made up only 9.3 per cent of the nominee pool between 2013 and 2018, with women of colour accounting for only 31 per cent of that figure.”
She said that Asian and Asian-American performers have had a particularly meagre showing over the award's 62-year history.
“The Grammy voters have really only recognised English-speaking female solo artists such as Yoko Ono and H.E.R.,” she said.
“The 2021 nominee list shows a meagre attempt at redressing these long-standing issues. Even for BTS, it took years to be nominated, although it shattered records on multiple major music charts.
“In the case of Blackpink, they have already made an impressive showing in the American market and the quality of their records is consistently jaw-dropping – what needs to change is the Grammys' system.”
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