For Caramonica, the issue is not the quality of Adele’s musical offerings, but that her spectacular success at the Grammys – her album 21 brought her six awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep – represents a particular cultural refusal of progressivism, a nostalgic clinging onto the safety and familiarity of a tried and true musical conservatism. What I want to suggest is that this nostalgia might also be understood as certain kind of white nostalgia for cultural dominance that is perceived as threatened within what is now known as the “post-racial.”
Within the post-racial, which names the illusion that race has been dissolved as a meaningful aspect of social discourse, there is a great tension inside whiteness itself, because while it certainly continues to exercise its power of social dominance, it has had to give up certain privileges of visibility that it once enjoyed. The reality is that whiteness no longer enjoys the full and unencumbered access to the spotlight of cultural influence that it once did. For example, where a televised show like the Grammy Awards was once dominated by images of white bodies (with the occasional black body), the racially diverse performance lineup represented by this year’s Grammys has become commonplace. The reality is that white bodies no longer dominate as the primary images of the show and others like it. At first glance, it would appear that the Grammys have entered into a “post-racial” moment.
Yet, when “post-racial” is understood for what it really is, the racial dynamic of this year’s Grammy Awards becomes much more complex. For in reality, this year’s awards show represents quite clearly that whiteness still can maneuver itself as the apex of cultural iconicity. In the end, this year’s Grammys was nothing more than an exercise in white nostalgia for a bygone era when white music (much of which was a mirrored version of black creativity) enjoyed its place at the top of the music industry’s most privileged spaces.
David Kline, The Grammys As White Nostalgia?, Racialicious 3/1/12.
Lert me add this: I think the mainstream music scene has been on this latest “white nostalgia” trip after the rap-rock trend filtered off on mainstream radio. Some music critics and fans started getting loud (again) about how we’re “going back to ‘real music,” which is coded as “(white) rock-n-roll.”
Also, this year the people deciding the Grammy winners cut 31 categories of music this year, quite a few of which were, as The Root reported last month, ethnic music like “Latin jazz, Native American, Hawaiin, regional Mexican, zydeco and Cajun music." So, this absence—along with the pairing of older white "rock gods" with younger musicians of color on the Grammys—compounds the "white nostalgia" vibe stinking up the event.