Grammys Under Fire

In May of last year, the Recording Academy (the organization behind the Grammys) was in some pretty hot water after some misogynistic comments from their CEO, Neil Portnow. To solve this issue, they hired businesswoman Deborah Dugan as their new CEO. The Academy needed a more diverse figure to come in and lead the organization to a more progressive mindset. Dugan was selected because she is by all accounts a well-renowned and remarkable woman in the music community.


Deborah Dugan is known for being the CEO of major companies like Disney Publishing Worldwide, Entertainment Rights North America, and Red. She also was the executive vice president at Capitol Records and volunteered as a lawyer to help struggling artists. She received many awards (such as the Nelson Mandela Changemarker Award) and worked for Huffington Post and Forbes. Dugan was a perfect fit for the Recording Academy.


But then, the Recording Academy fired her after less than six months on the job and just ten days before the Grammy awards. According to Recording Academy PR, she was fired due to her “bullying managerial style”. However, with little research it is clear that she was fired for writing an internal memo with the intention to expose the corruption going on with the Academy. In her memo, she accused Joel Katz (a lawyer for the Academy) of sexually assaulting her and claimed that the Grammys had a corrupt voting process. She stated that there are secret committees that decide the final candidates for the awards and often give priority to artists they have prior relationships with. She wrote about a toxic atmosphere within the Academy and how she was paid significantly less than her predecessor. This is just one of number of issues she stated in her memo.


Unfortunately, the story of the Recording Academy’s first female CEO is a sad one. She tried to make progress in a corrupt environment and was fired by a group of corrupt executives who would stop at nothing to keep their authority rather than move the music industry forward.

But this happened more than a year ago, so why am I talking about it now? Well, after eight months after Dugan’s firing, the integrity of the Grammys has been called into question once more after the Weeknd claims that he was blacklisted from the 2021 awards because the Academy wouldn’t allow him to perform at both the Super Bowl and the Grammy Awards in one year. He states that they were going to take away all of his nominations if he chose to play at the Super Bowl instead. While the Recording Academy may deny any and all negative allegations, it seems clear that there is some serious blacklisting and corruption at play.


It is important to realize that 2020 was the biggest year of the Weeknd’s career so far. Blinding Lights is his biggest song to date and his most recent album, After Hours, sat at number one for over a month (the first album since Drake’s Scorpion). It is clear that the Weeknd was deserving some major Grammy wins. After all, he’s never won in a major category before, despite almost a decade of international success. 


Surprisingly, the Weeknd wasn’t nominated for anything. Looking to social media, he tweeted about the issue.











As details emerged, it became clear that the Grammy’s snubbed the Weekend for one simple reason: they wanted him all to themselves. To elaborate, the Weeknd will be performing at the Super Bowl halftime show for 2021. The halftime show is one of the highest possible honors for any musician. Naturally, the Weeknd wants to do it but he also wanted to accept the recording Academy’s invitation to perform at the Grammys. After a few weeks of negotiations, it was supposedly decided that he could do both shows, but for reason, the Academy redacted their proposal. It’s hard to know exactly why and how the Weeknd didn’t get nominated for any awards, especially since the new president of the Recording Academy denied the allegations. Ultimately, this is a prime example of the Academy’s corrupt nature.  


In my opinion, the Grammys do not reflect good music at all. This year’s nominations for album of the year are some of the worst I’ve ever seen: Black Pumas, Jacob Collier, HAIM, and Coldplay. As a major Coldplay fan, I can easily say that their newest album, Everyday Life, did not impress me in the slightest. Also, Justin Bieber’s awful record got three nominations while Halsey was completely left out. Harry Styles’ didn’t even get any big nominations. They also ignored Lil Uzi, Mac Miller, and Run the Jewels. Even Pop Smoke wasn’t recognized, despite being the biggest new artist of the year. His debut album spent two weeks at number one, a huge accomplishment for an amateur artist. 


Another element of the Academy’s corruption is their discriminatory past. Looking to Wikipedia, there is an entire page dedicated to racism in the Grammys. On that page, I learned that only ten black artists have ever won album of the year since the Grammys were invented in 1957. To name a few issues within the Grammys, Beyonce lost twice to white artists and Frank Ocean only won two awards. From 2007 to 2017, only one non-white artist won album of the year. Worst of all, Macklemore’s album, The Heist, won best rap record over Nothing Was the Same by Drake, Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z, Good Kid M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar, and Yeezus by Kanye West. Looking at the Academy’s past, the Grammys included the rap category in 1989 for the first time but chose not to televise the category so they could hide it from the general public.


Overall, the Grammys are not a reflection of excellence or quality. They aim to push an agenda of greed rather than one of talent. Unfortunately, nothing will change about the Academy until their false status of a reliable and inclusive organization is exposed.