The Grammys need to ditch their K-Pop bias and consider RM’s ‘Right Place, Wrong Person’ for their biggest award

The Grammys need to ditch their K-Pop bias and consider RM’s ‘Right Place, Wrong Person’ for their biggest award

This year in music has been one of the busiest we’ve seen in the past decade.

The biggest names in the industry have, are, or will be putting out new albums, setting the Grammys up to be an absolute bloodbath. Yet still, there should be space among the nominees for an underdog, a wild card.

RM‘s Right Place, Wrong Person album is easily one of the best productions to come out of 2024. It’s an experimental, boundary-pushing, fresh, conceptual hip-hop project with something to say. Across 11 incredibly distinct tracks (including three interludes), the 29-year-old rapper — who’s currently completing his military service in South Korea — lets loose on topics ranging from romantic heartbreak to the pressures of his status as the leader of the world’s biggest band.

The disheveled nature of the album’s production reflects RM’s marked refusal to conform to the neat and proper confines that the country’s media, cultural, and political forces have long attempted to force him into. Sonically, Right Place, Wrong Person keeps the listener on their toes with constant twists and irreverent instrumentation, while never losing the groove and coolness that has come to define the rapper’s solo music.

Image via Big Hit Music

In short, it’s an album that is very clearly deserving of critical and institutional attention but frustratingly is most likely to not get much of either. It received positive reviews from magazines like NME and Rolling Stone and turned the heads of a few online critics like theneedledrop’s Anthony Fantano, but did not make as much noise as a similar release from a Western artist could have. As with any release from a BTS member, powered by its tireless fanbase, it was fairly successful on the Billboard charts, debuting at number 5 on Billboard 200 and at number 1 on its Top Rap Albums chart.

Frankly, Right Place Wrong Person has everything working against it. Rap albums and artists of color (especially those not from the U.S.) aren’t the Recording Academy’s preferred genre or demographic as it is, but to make matters worse, RM comes from a prolific pop boy band, a category the Grammys typically and traditionally like to ignore.

That is why it was an achievement in and of itself when BTS were nominated — three times for their music, and an extra two times for their feature on Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres album — especially considering the animosity the American music industry usually reserves for anything that is non-Western. Even then, the band was pushed towards the same category every time, one that’s far from being among the Grammys’ most important — Best Pop Duo/Group Performance — and still didn’t win it once, despite meritorious chart performance and cultural impact. Oh, and only their English-language singles were ever considered, despite their Korean-language music being far superior in quality, and actually written and produced by the band members.

Image via Big Hit Music

The difference was that the band’s fan collective, known as the Army, was simply too large and loud to be ignored, making it impossible for the Grammys to quietly shun BTS like what happened with the likes of One Direction in the past. With RM, however, it is far trickier, even if Right Place, Wrong Person is arguably bolder, more mature, and more interesting than BTS’s radio-friendly repertoire. The name brand is simply not as resonant as BTS’s and the appeal of the music, especially after this more alternative attempt, is narrower.

An artist and an album need to build and keep momentum to even cross the hairs of the Recording Academy come Grammys nominations time. With RM unable to campaign for the album in person and the fandom dispersed, it’s hard to imagine a future where Right Place, Wrong Person is featured among the list of nominees, even if it’s just as deserving as the albums that will be.

Right Place, Wrong Person is Album of The Year material, but it might not even pick up Rap, Pop, or R&B nominations. Still, if RM ever comes to receive the acclaim and prestige he is owed, this article may serve as an artifact of a time when he was unjustly overlooked.

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