I've seen enough empty celebrity gestures in my life to be suspicious of an ulterior motive anytime someone famous makes a big statement about something. But when Frank Ocean explained why he's skipping the Grammys, he actually convinced me. I'm used to artists like, say, Kanye West, who has threatened to boycott ceremonies because he didn't receive a nomination, but Ocean has a much more sympathetic and genuine-sounding reason for his absence: he doesn't feel represented by the award ceremony. As he told The New York Times in an interview recently, "I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience. I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated."
And I don't just mean Ocean is not going to the Grammys. I mean, he didn't even submit his music for consideration, which really takes this to a whole new level. That's how you know he's serious: Ocean's 2016 projects, Endless and Blonde , came out in August, well before the Sep. 30 submission deadline for the Grammys, and he just let it slide on by even though he's fully aware of what a big deal Grammys are.
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.
A lesser artist might have felt this way, but pushed it down, submitting his music just to see what happened and only then making the decision whether or not to sit out the ceremony, but not Frank Ocean. Reading his words, I'm convinced that he truly stands behind his beliefs, and isn't just trying to make a point or gain some attention for his album, but really wants to effect some kind of change on the industry and stop rewarding their same old way of doing things.
I can't think of anything more indicative of his self-respect and self-assurance as an artist. Obviously, I'll be bummed not to see him in the audience, scooping up the awards he rightfully deserves, but I really respect where Ocean is coming from on this, and, even more so, I admire his follow-through.