The 64th Grammy Award luck wasn’t on the side of Nigeria following a blow they delivered on Nigeria after the country’s nominated artists crashed out in their categories.
Wizkid was put up in the ‘Best Global Music Performance’ category for ‘Essence’, his collaboration with Tems. Also nominated in the category is ‘Pa Pa Pa’ by Femi Kuti and ‘Do Yourself’ by Angelique Kidjo and Burna Boy.
Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos (MIL)’ and ‘Legacy +’ by Femi and Made Kuti were up in the ‘Best Global Music Album’ category. However, Wizkid lost to Kidjo, the Beninese singer, in the album category, and Pakistan’s Arooj Aftab in the song category.
Given Wizkid’s stellar 2021, topping the charts with his hit ‘Essence’ and his critically acclaimed ‘MIL’ album, fans of the Afropop superstar had expected at least one of the Grammy statuettes to have his name engraved on it.
Wizkid’s loss stirred a wave of mixed reactions on social media as well as misconceptions about the Grammy’s voting process.
Before Grammy voting
For the Grammys, members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), both media companies and individuals, may nominate recordings for consideration.
Entries are made online and a physical copy of the work is sent to NARAS. When a project is entered, review sessions are held that involve over 150 recording industry experts, to determine that the work has been entered in the correct category.
The resulting lists of eligible entries are then circulated to voting members, each of who may vote to nominate in the general fields (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist).
Each can nominate in up to nine out of 30 other fields on their ballots. The five recordings that earn the most votes in each category become the nominees, while in some categories (craft and specialized categories), review committees determine the final five nominees. There may be over five nominees if a tie occurs in the nomination process.
Final voting process
After nominees have been determined, final voting ballots are sent to NARAS voting members, who may then vote in the general fields and in up to nine of the 30 fields.
Members are encouraged, but not required, to vote only in their fields of expertise.
Ballots are tabulated secretly by the independent accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
After vote tabulation, winners are announced at the Grammy Awards.
The recording with the most votes in a category wins and it is possible to have a tie — in which case the two [or more] nominees who tie are considered winners. Winners are presented with a Grammy.
In both voting rounds, Academy members are required to vote solely based upon quality, without consideration for sales, chart performance, personal friendships, regional preferences, or company loyalty. Gifts may not be accepted.
Members are urged to vote in a manner that preserves the integrity of the academy and its member community.
Although registered media companies may submit entries, they have no vote in the process.
Wizkid’s loss in this context
For many, Wizkid’s loss would seem as though the Grammy had yet to accept the idea of contemporary African pop. In 2021, the Academy had introduced the ‘Best Global Music Album’ category, which honours artists performing non-western music genres. It basically broadened/renamed the ‘Best World Music Album’ discontinued in 2020.
The ‘Best Global Music Album’ award is reserved for international performers exhibiting “non-European, indigenous traditions”, with the definition of “world music” adjusted to include non-western classical music.
Kidjo, who has so far won five Grammys, is applauded for her pan-African leanings. Her projects are known for incorporating very compelling aesthetic, thematic, and linguistic components relating to the continent.
Her track ‘Dignity‘ kicks off with her speaking a local language and proceeds to criticise the concept of christening a country “the giant of Africa” in hopes for economic growth and development that remains to be seen.
Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’, while it received critical acclaim, addressed predominantly the global theme of love. As a music bigwig in Nigeria exporting Afrobeats to climes far beyond Africa, Wizkid’s ingenuity is not in question. But based on the standards for the category involved, it’s not hard to see why he would lose the statuette to Kidjo.