Here’s Why People Are Upset About Billie Eilish’s Record of the Year Win at the Grammys
Eilish said Megan Thee Stallion should have won...where have we heard this before?
At last night’s 2021 Grammy Awards, Billie Eilish took home the award for Record of the Year for her song “Everything I Wanted.” And though she was thankful, Eilish noted during her acceptance speech that she felt “embarrassed” to win over her fellow nominee Megan Thee Stallion, who took home Grammys for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance for “Savage” remix featuring Beyoncé.
“This is really embarrassing for me,” Eilish said while accepting her award. “Megan, girl, I was going to write a speech about how you deserve this. But then I was like, ‘There’s no way they’re gonna choose me.’ I was like, ‘It’s hers.'”
Eilish continued, You deserve this. You had a year that I think is untoppable. You are a queen. I want to cry thinking about how much I love you.
Though many praised Eilish for her humility and willingness to give her moment over to someone she thought deserved the honor more than she did, many had seen this situation play out on the Grammys stage before—that being a white artist, having won a major award, telling a Black artist that the award should have gone to them.
As Twitter pointed out, Macklemore said he felt as though he “robbed” Kendrick Lamar in 2014 of Best Rap Album, explaining so via an Instagram post after the show. And Adele dedicated her 2017 Album of the Year win to Beyoncé, saying, “I’m very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyoncé…the Lemonade album was just so monumental.”
Eilish detailing her love and respect for Megan Thee Stallion during her minute-long acceptance speech was just history repeating itself for many, though Eilish is not the one at fault.
“No disrespect to Billie Eilish, whose music I love, and who handled that graciously,” NPR Music writer Stephen Thompson tweeted. “But that is the most #Grammys move EVER, to pat themselves on the back for how often they’ve honored Beyonce and then, AGAIN, pass her over for the big prizes.”
Yes, Eilish’s speech was both endearing and uncomfortable simultaneously, but the fallout from it has less to do with her and is more so a result of systemic racism still at play within these major award shows.
As Twitter user @NifMuhammad pointed out, the last time a Black woman won Album of the Year was in 1999 when Lauryn Hill won it for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. And the last time Record of the Year was taken home by a Black female artist was in 1994 when Whitney Houston won for “I Will Always Love You.”
Last year, when Eilish took home Record of the Year for “Bad Guy,” she thought the award should have gone to Ariana Grande for “Thank U, Next.” Eilish has always been humble to a fault and rarely likes to gain recognition from the academy, even though she rightly deserves the praise.
But it shouldn’t be solely up to Eilish to point out how her Black fellow female nominees are constantly overlooked by those in power. And everyone who enjoys watching the Grammys should be well aware that a Black woman has yet to take home Record of the Year or Album of the Year within the 21st century. The white guilt is hard to watch when it’s happening live and on stage, but on the flip side, the systemic issue within the Grammys cannot be ignored.