Grammys tweak use of ‘Urban’ as music industry weighs a loaded term
By Ben Sisario
As protests over racial injustice continue to sweep the country, the music industry has come under renewed scrutiny, including from within.
One ongoing issue is the term “urban,” which has drawn quick condemnation as a racist and outdated euphemism for genres like hip-hop and R&B that predominantly feature black artists. Some major record companies and broadcasters have already pledged to drop it.
Now the Grammy Awards have entered into the fray, by removing the word from some categories yet adding it to another, as part of a series of rule changes announced Wednesday.
Starting with the 63rd annual ceremony, planned for January, best urban contemporary album will be called best progressive R&B album. In a statement, the Recording Academy, the organization that presents the Grammys, called this change “a more accurate definition to describe the merit or characteristics” of R&B music.
But in the Latin field, “urban” was dropped from one category yet added to another. Best Latin pop album will now be called Latin pop or urban; the category Latin rock, urban or alternative album has been shortened to Latin rock or alternative. The upshot of that change is that reggaeton albums — still considered “urban” — will now compete against top Latin pop hits.