Pop star Frank Ocean surprised many in the music business when he didn’t submit any of his songs for Grammy consideration this year. His long-awaited record, “Blond,” was released this past August. When pressed on it, rather than deliver a speech about awards meaning nothing, the 29-year-old explained that he now rejects the awards show system completely.
“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”
He likes to have control over his music, he added, and is not the biggest fan of the traditional methods of releasing albums and promoting them, either.
Despite winning two Grammys in 2013, he explained he wants to make a statement against the awards show, which he believe is “not representing” all artists equally.
Citing the Grammys’ perceived historical failure to recognize black artists as an explanation for the purposeful omission, Ocean put it this way: “That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.”
Ocean went on to note that in his lifetime, only a handful of black artists — including Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Ray Charles — have won Album of the Year. A few other black artists have won Album of the Year since Ocean was born in 1987 — the most recent being Hancock, in 2008.
So, sure, this can qualify as “pulling a Kaepernick” — to a degree, anyway. But it’s not as if Ocean was asked to perform at the ceremony, accepted, showed up, and then refused to play. This is a full-on sitting it out, which happens at many an award show — including the Oscars, where winners have actually pulled no-shows in the past, sending others to pick up the award in their stead, if at all.
It’s like marching in a protest around your couch, really. What’s the point of the picket sign — or staying down on one knee — if no one actually sees you doing it? Sure, you made the quotes, withheld the songs — but life goes on.
But, hey, maybe it’ll be contagious, right? Maybe other artists will follow suit, or even just sit out the awards as well — all in an effort to send a message to the academy.
Heck, Kanye West said he might do just that. He is threatening to boycott the awards himself if Ocean doesn’t win — and Ocean won’t, since he intentionally missed the Sept. 30 deadline for song submission. Maybe he wants to sit it out, and this gives him a strong reason to — even if the logic is skewed thanks to Ocean’s stance. West, who made noise this past weekend due to some outbursts about Jay Z and Beyoncé at a concert, and ended another abruptly after only two or three songs, might not realize his absence will probably be quite welcome.