Many targeted Alessia Cara when she took home the Best New Artist win at the 2018 GRAMMYs, beating out fellow newcomers SZA, Khalid, Julia Michaels and Lil Uzi Vert. SZA, who was the leading lady of the night with five nominations, was thought to take home the award.
But after Alessia's win, angry and disappointed fans quickly shunned her—and she noticed. "I’m aware that my music wasn’t released yesterday, I’m aware that, yes, my music has become fairly popular in the last year, she said in a lengthy Instagram post. "But I’m trying very hard to use the platform I’ve been given to talk about these things and bring light to issues that aren’t fair, all while trying to make the most of the weird, amazing success I’ve been lucky enough to have." Yet SZA herself isn't upset about the loss anymore and is graciously coming forth to defend the singer. "You know, I never looked at the Internet [after the Grammys]. I never looked at anything anyone ever said after that online—not once," SZA said in a new GQ interview.
"The only time I ever heard about it was in person, when someone walked up to me and was like, “You were robbed” or whatever the fuck. I was like, 'I feel you.' My home girl actually showed me Alessia [Cara]’s post and I thought, This is really crazy."
SZA continued, explaining why she remained silent about leaving the ceremony empty-handed:
"I just didn’t know how to take it. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t post, because I’ve never had to deal with anything I really believed in wholeheartedly, or invested in, and went through something that publicly before. I wanted to be honest as fuck, and if today I’m just mad as hell, I don’t want to say something that reflects me being mad as hell. But I definitely feel blessed now. I also don’t feel compelled to explain myself.
If anything, I feel compelled to express that I really, really fuck with Alessia Cara. She’s beautiful as fuck, her voice is like water, it’s like milk, I think it’s gorgeous. It has so much dimension, and she deserves every accolade that she gets. And people can’t be mad. I don’t give a fuck when her album came out! She sounds great right now! So, like, it’s over. You have to just move over and be grateful for the shit that did happen in your favor."
After earning five nominations and having her critically acclaimed debut album be certified Gold, with singles "Love Galore" and "The Weekend" going Platinum, SZA surely deserved at least one of those awards. But as seen with Recording Academy president Neil Portnow's not-so-subtle sexist remarks where he claimed female artists need to "step up" in order to be recognized, the nominations and wins are not in the artists' control. Instead, the award show's committee should take more responsibility to provide a more even playing field rather than a blatantly skewed system.
Maybe this year's GRAMMYs wasn't SZA's time to shine, or maybe her losses were a product of biased opinions. But it did spark important conversations about how the show favors male artists and doesn't recognize Black artists as often as they should. In any case, SZA isn't letting it affect her music trajectory. "I’m learning myself and learning how to listen to myself," she tells GQ. "I didn’t make my album with the Grammys in mind, and I’m definitely not gonna make my second one with the Grammys in mind. I’m just gonna make really good fucking music and just try to touch people."
Below, watch fellow Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee Khalid's interview with Fuse: