Jeff Yang is a frequent contributor to CNN Opinion, a featured writer for Quartz and other publications, and the co-host of the podcast “They Call Us Bruce.” He co-wrote Jackie Chan’s bestselling autobiography, “I Am Jackie Chan,” and is the editor of three graphic novels: “Secret Identities,” “Shattered” and the forthcoming “New Frontiers.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. Read more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Postponed in January by the resurgent threat of Covid-19, the Grammys on Sunday night could have easily been another casualty this year — of either the pandemic or continued backlash against the lack of both representation and transparency in high-profile award shows.

It was probably a stroke of bad luck that landed the rescheduled Grammys right after the spectacle of the Golden Globes, a technically disastrous event that was slammed for its bizarre honoree choices (two nominations for Netflix’s critically slammed “Emily in Paris,” which flew voters to its set for a luxury junket as part of its promo campaign? Total snub for “I May Destroy You,” one of the best reviewed TV shows of the year?), its long-standing shady and opaque selections process and, especially, the revelation of the complete lack of Black members among the ranks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the presenting organization.

The Grammys has faced similar criticism in the recent past. Last year, the music awards took place in the wake of a stunning Los Angeles Times interview with the Recording Academy’s outgoing chief, Deborah Dugan, who alleged the awards were rife with corruption and conflicts of interest, that the lists of finalists were rigged to benefit a largely white “boys’ club” of industry insiders, and that those who suffered as a result of alleged self-dealing were disproportionately women and people of color. (Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy’s vice president of awards, rejected these claims, saying in a statement, “Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong.)

It was left to Dugan’s interim replacement as president, Academy Board of Trustees chair Harvey Mason Jr., to address the explosive consequences of Dugan’s allegations. (In a statement, Mason encouraged people to “go beyond the sensational sound bites and teaser headlines and look at what the Academy actually does and how it functions.”)

And things didn’t look promising this year. After receiving zero Grammy nominations, The Weeknd — whose song “Blinding Lights” was the biggest global hit single of 2020, and who’d just headlined one of the highest-profile music shows in the nation, the Super Bowl Halftime Show — vowed that he would refuse to submit his music for Grammys consideration in the future because of its practice of using “secret committees” to determine nominees.

Fiona Apple, who was nominated for three awards but did not attend the show, said in a December interview that she thought about smashing any Grammy she received with a sledgehammer, in part because of the controversy surrounding producer Dr. Luke, who pseudonymously wrote Doja Cat’s “Say So.” Dr. Luke was accused in 2014 of rape and abuse, allegations he denies.

Beyoncé, the most nominated female artist in Grammy history, declined to lend the awards her credibility by performing.

“Black artists have been seeing this happen for a very long time, and they’re basically fed up,” Rebecca Sun, The Hollywood Reporter’s senior editor for diversity and inclusion, told me this weekend. “And now, more and more are choosing to opt out of the game. They’re saying, ‘Forget this, we see what’s going on here, and we don’t need to seek validation from you anymore.'”

The smaller-scale show we saw Sunday night, with many masked stars accepting awards al fresco, actually looked appropriately humble. And the very first award presented seemed like a nod to an Academy in the process of evolving, as a shocked and emotional Megan Thee Stallion took home the trophy for best new artist, becoming the first rapper to win the award since Lauryn Hill in 1999. She returned to the podium twice more with wins of best rap song and best rap performance for “Savage,” sharing the latter two with the track’s featured vocalist, Beyoncé. And H.E.R. won song of the year with her anthem of last summer’s George Floyd protests, “I Can’t Breathe.”

Still, many top awards went to known-quantity White artists — Billie Eilish scoring record of the year for the second time in a row, Taylor Swift winning her third album of the year, and Harry Styles, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Fiona Apple and The Strokes taking awards in pop, rock and alternative. Meanwhile, Black artists won rap and R&B honors, and Latinx artists won Latin categories.

“The problem begins with the way categories are designed,” says Sun. “Some categories are qualified, but some aren’t. When you say, ‘This is the best album, and this is the best Latin album,’ you’re already betraying subjectivity. It’s like how there’s no ‘best English-language picture’ at the Oscars — only ‘foreign language,’ even though America is a country that doesn’t have an official tongue.”

The de facto racial coding of award categories is something the Academy needs to contend with as it looks to the future. Midway through the show, acting Academy president Mason appeared in a brief PSA that asked for artists and viewers to give the organization a chance to change. “We’re listening like never before. We hear the cries for diversity, the pleas for representation and the demands for transparency,” he said. “We will stand up for what’s right and fight for greater diversity and more equal representation. This is not a vision for tomorrow, it’s a job for today.”

In figuring out how to do this job, Mason and the rest of the Academy’s leadership would do well to take their cue from the success of this year’s Grammy performances — a better reflection of the true future of music, perhaps, than the show’s award recipients.

The musical numbers may not have had the anything-goes feel of live-audience acts past, but they more than made up for it with eclectic exuberance from an array of performers who looked a heck of a lot more like today’s borderless, culturally inclusive Spotify-and-TikTok-powered music scene than the slates of prior Grammys.

Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez tore through a neon stage spitting their Spanish-language hit “Dakiti.” Mickey Guyton, the first Black female solo country singer ever to perform at the Grammys, sang a wrenching version of “Black Like Me,” her defiant and personal callout of racism. And Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion brought all the ammunition to a performance of “WAP” that stretched the limits of prime-time standards.

Late addition to the program, Silk Sonic — the brand-new R&B supergroup formed by Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars — alternated custard smoothness and fireball energy, performing its first single, “Leave the Door Open,” and later, a two-song tribute to Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.”

But it was Korean superstars BTS who had perhaps the most anticipated number of the night — celebrating the group’s first-ever nomination with a rendition of their English-language megahit “Dynamite.” Their number was sleek pop perfection, with the polish of countless hours of practice — but sung and danced with a sheer joy that made clear that they put in the work out of love, not duty. It was the kind of performance that clearly reminded us how music transcends boundaries, connecting us despite differences of race, language, culture and identity — when we give it the chance to do so by giving a full spectrum of performers time in the spotlight.

The bottom line is that the Grammys need diverse creators and audiences more than diverse creators and audiences need the Grammys. Consider this, after all: As noted by one Twitter account reporting on the platform’s hashtag data during the Grammys, fans generated over 4.4 million tweets about BTS. The #Grammys hashtag on its own when stripped of BTS references had just 1.5 million.