The Problem With BTS’ Loss at the 2022 Grammys

After being delayed due to Covid, Music’s Biggest Night was last week, though not as big as the name suggests. The 2022 Grammy Awards followed the trend seen with last year’s ceremony, receiving an average of 8.9M viewers – a pretty low number for an event of this scale. The night however, wasn’t free of surprises: from Broadway stars Leslie Odom Jr, Cynthia Erivo, Chris Platt and Rachel Zegler performing a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, to a great speech from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The awards themselves were not particularly unexpected: 19-year-old Olivia Rodrigo won Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album, beating out singers such as Saweetie, The Kid Laroy, Ariana Grande and Doja Cat. Silk Sonic received four awards, including main categories like Record and Song of the Year. Protagonist of the night however, was Jon Batiste who was awarded the coveted Album of the Year, as well as four other awards. 

Yet the most talked about category was Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. All for one reason: BTS was nominated. The South Korean group had already been nominated in the same category last year, with their hit Dynamite. However, they lost the award to Lady Gaga’s Rain on Me. On April 4th 2022, a little over a year after that happened, history repeated itself, with BTS losing the award to Kiss Me More, by Doja Cat ft. SZA. This garnered the Grammys a lot of criticism, by fans of the group and casual watchers alike. The problem for most fans wasn’t that BTS had lost the award, but the fact that the Grammys had used the group to gain viewers without having any intention to give them the award.

During the 2021 Grammys, BTS could not travel to the United States to perform, so they pre-recorded a performance and attended online, watching the award show from Seoul, South Korea at 2AM. Their category was announced during the pre-ceremony and their performance was aired at the end of the main show, with the presenters constantly hyping the audience, and stating that “BTS was coming soon”. They were lying, and fans were left waiting for the group the entire night, in an obvious attempt at keeping BTS fans watching the whole show. 

The situation this year was similar, with the Grammys simply switching the order of the two. BTS’ performance, this time live from Las Vegas, was aired right away, while their category – which, mind you, had only ever been aired in the pre-show – was announced not only during the main ceremony, but as one of the last, after the show had been going on for over 3 hours. The Grammys also did find the time to interview the group midway and tease their category, while slipping in a Squid Game joke – because they’re Korean, get it?

Using BTS to bait an audience has been called out by many in the industry. Both last year and this year, the group was the main face of the awards show, mentioned in every ad, in every post, and in every discussion. Yet, BTS were treated as an exotic toy, completely disregarding them as artists, and inviting them simply to get more people talking about the ceremony.

This is upsetting for so many reasons, but mainly because of the xenophobia shown by not only the Grammys, but the entire Western music industry. BTS have proven themselves multiple times, as not only the biggest group in the world, but as one of the best artists of our time. Their albums have all received extremely positive reviews and they have been the best selling artist in the world, for two years in a row now. Yet, the Grammys have completely ignored this, nominating them twice in the same minor category, and only doing so when they released a single in English. Even on red carpets, BTS are never asked about their music, but about which American celebrity they like more, which American singer they want to collaborate with, once again reducing them as the outsiders, who must look up to the real (English-speaking) celebrities. 

Therefore, it is clear that the outrage after BTS’ loss is not a result of the “crazy BTS fans” who are mad that their favorite artists lost an award (because yes, BTS are also a boyband with a mainly female audience, which means their fans must be crazy). Most ARMYs (BTS fans) don’t even care about the Grammys, they simply hoped the group would win because the members wanted to. The outrage comes from the treatment reserved to BTS and BTS only, as the only Korean artists there. 

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Despite all this, BTS’ James Bond-inspired performance of Butter was praised by everyone. With Jungkook coming down from the ceiling, V flirting with Olivia Rodrigo and the amazing dance break in the middle, the members delivered an unforgettable stage. Billboard ranked it as the best performance of the night, stating “[they] transformed the whole Grammys stage into a secret agent headquarters, proving that their creativity is equally as impressive as their musical talent.” Rolling Stones also ranked it as the 13th best Grammys performance of all time, claiming “they were on fire with confidence and charisma”. This is even more impressive when considering how the group only practiced together briefly, as members J-Hope and Jungkook were positive for Covid-19 until a few days before the show, and member Jin injured his hand. Thankfully, all the members were able to perform on stage, with Jin mainly singing while sitting, and only joining the dance for the last chorus. 

Therefore, “Music’s biggest night” was both happy and disappointing for BTS and their fans. However, it improved when the group gathered in their hotel to do a live broadcast on Korean app V-Live, celebrating the night with an audience of over 4 million. Member RM said: “Well, what can we do, it’s a fact that we don’t feel the best but I think it’s good to be honest. We can be sad today and be okay tomorrow!” (translation credit to @haruharu_w_bts on twitter). It’s sad to hear the group during the livestream, as they say they “just need to work harder next year”, because their loss was not due to a lack of effort, but the xenophobia of the American music industry. Still, BTS stayed positive, chatting about their thoughts on the night and their excitement for their upcoming concerts.

Grammy or not, BTS continues to be the biggest artist in the world, breaking down barriers for Asian artists everywhere – as their 4 sold out shows at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium would prove. As Forbes put it after last year’s Grammys: “But as BTS continue smashing records and the Grammys continue to lose relevance, who really needs who?”

Written by Elisa Paci

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