Billboard Award nominations continue to be out of touch

Allison Harris

If you think about the popular music of last year, you might reminisce fondly on singer The Weeknd’s incredible synth-pop record or rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s historic breakout and domination. Or perhaps, the viral dance craze behind singer Doja Cat’s #1 song “Say So,” complete with a remix from rapper Nicki Minaj. 

You might not think about rapper Post Malone, whose album from September 2019 earned him the most nominations (16!) for Billboard Music Awards of any artist. 

Aside from a personal belief that no white rap artists should exist, Post Malone racking up nominations for a lackluster album feels like a genuine slap in the face to the standout music put out in the last 12 months by mostly Black, female artists. The nomination period for the 2020 Billboard Music Awards was March 2019 to March 2020, which includes the most female-dominated summer of rap music in many years. Somehow, though, there are no female nominations for “Best Rap Artist” or “Best Rap Album.” It is quite literally appalling that Megan Thee Stallion has only one award nomination after her rise to stardom as one of the biggest names in hip-hop. Despite having a viral song on both Twitter and TikTok, rapper Flo Milli is also noticeably absent, as is the hip-hop duo City Girls. 

Music award shows gratuitously pigeonhole Black artists into the R&B category, something the Billboard Music Awards have also done this year. The Weeknd holds nominations in several R&B categories for his album “After Hours,” filled with new wave synths and 80’s-era pop sounds. 

Partially due to a funky nomination period disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic, the list of Billboard nominees feels awfully stale. Pop band Panic! At The Disco, who hasn’t released music since 2018, earned a nomination for “Best Duo/Group.” Snooze-fest act The Chainsmokers and a set from DJ Marshmello’s “Fortnite” concert earned nominations for “Top Electronic/Dance Album.” While rapper Roddy Ricch’s “Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial” received a nomination for “Best Rap Album,” his song, “The Box,” is nowhere in the song award categories despite spending a whopping 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard list. 

It would be easy to write this year’s weird list of nominees as a fluke of a chaotic year, but it has been (arguably) 30 years since rap and rap-influenced pop music became the biggest genre in America. It’s time for the Billboard Music Awards to appropriately cover the Black artists who top its streaming charts time and time again. Even the Oscars may be seeing changes in terms of its diversity in categories, so it’s time for music awards shows to do the same. Although Black artists, many of them women, have been dominating popular music in the U.S. for years, they deserve the same representation as white male artists like Post Malone, who has profited from their influences time and time again.

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