Where Do The Grammys Go From Here? ‘They’ve Got to Let Some More New Blood In’


This 12 months’s awards honored extra girls and other people of coloration in a ceremony that appeared extra related to immediately’s music enterprise, however nonetheless made some missteps. What’s subsequent?

"This was the primary chink within the armor," says a label government concerning the latest Grammy Awards, the place a hip-hop monitor received each file and music of the 12 months for the primary time and extra girls than standard appeared onstage as each honorees and performers a 12 months after Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow famously urged they wanted to "step up."

It says one thing concerning the notion of the awards that at the very least some within the business see it as an edifice that's protected — maybe, in some circumstances, from the form of performers or music they work with. But the consensus amongst business executives is that the 61st Grammy Awards represented a major step in the suitable route towards a telecast that displays a contemporary music enterprise dominated by hip-hop — even when there's nonetheless an extended strategy to go.

Last 12 months, just one lady — finest new artist winner Alessia Cara — received a significant award that was introduced on TV. (Lorde drew consideration to this system's gender imbalance by mentioning that she was the one feminine nominee for album of the 12 months, and the one one not requested to carry out a music from that launch.) This 12 months, the academy expanded the variety of nominees for the 4 huge awards from 5 to eight, and extra girls obtained these spots — there have been 5 feminine artists nominated for file of the 12 months, 5 as performers for music of the 12 months, 5 as lead artists for album of the 12 months and 7 (in six slots) for finest new artist. Women received two of these classes — Kacey Musgraves, for album of the 12 months with Golden Hour, and Dua Lipa, for finest new artist.

The ceremony was hosted by Alicia Keys, who set a tone of feminine empowerment for the night early on when she introduced former first woman Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez onstage to resounding applause, and ladies delivered a few of the evening's standout performances, together with Janelle Monáe's glossy "Make Me Feel" and the indefatigable Dolly Parton harmonizing with Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Maren Morris, amongst others.

"This had come to a head," says a feminine TV producer, speaking about what number of girls had been on the present a 12 months after Portnow's remark (for which he apologized). "Women took that comment [about stepping up] actually."

This 12 months's present — which drew 19.9 million viewers, up from 19.eight million in 2018, in accordance with Nielsen — mirrored immediately's music enterprise in different methods, too. Childish Gambino's "This Is America" received file and music of the 12 months, and extra hip-hop and R&B awards had been introduced throughout the primary telecast. An academy activity power's resolution to ask 900 new members with a view to diversify the Grammy voting physique could have helped.

That's simply "a step in the suitable route," although, says one high-ranking label government. Ever since The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, amongst others, refused to attend the Grammys in 1989 when the academy determined to not televise the presentation of the primary award for finest rap efficiency, the hip-hop neighborhood has had a love/hate relationship with the ceremony. More just lately, Jay-Z and Kanye West have spoken out towards the awards present.

Even this 12 months, Gambino didn't attend to simply accept his trophy, and each Kendrick Lamar and Drake declined invites to carry out. Drake shocked viewers when he stepped onstage for the primary time since 2013 to select up his finest rap music honor — solely to have his acceptance speech reduce off. (According to an announcement from the present's producers, a "pure pause in his speech" led them to suppose he was performed, and he declined their supply to complete his speech.)

"Thank you [Grammys] for exhibiting extra R&B on the present this 12 months," says the primary label government. "But why are you continue to afraid of hip-hop? There nonetheless aren't sufficient individuals of coloration within the system, together with The Recording Academy and the networks, who perceive and respect the style."

The no-shows weren't restricted to hip-hop. Days earlier than the telecast, Ariana Grande (who received finest pop vocal album for Sweetener) and longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich obtained right into a back-and-forth within the media after the singer denied Ehrlich's declare that she couldn't carry out as a result of it was "too late for her to drag one thing collectively."

Questions about the way forward for the present — and the academy — loom massive as Portnow prepares to go away this summer season after 17 years on the helm. Ehrlich has mentioned that his contract solely runs by means of 2020, which might mark 40 years of manufacturing the venerable present, and that he’s uncertain if he’ll return.

Their successors can have the liberty to make modifications that many within the business regard as lengthy overdue, together with updating the method to find out each nominees and winners.

"They ought to completely change the voting standards," says a publishing government. "If you're working with songwriters and producers, publishing and A&R, you must have the ability to vote since you're concerned with and guiding the artistic course of." (Voting members are professionals with artistic or technical credit on at the very least six songs, who should then apply for membership and pay annual dues.)

Some label executives consider the academy ought to make the method extra clear. "Get rid of secret nomination committees and comply with the [Academy Awards'] lead and determine nominees by academy votes," says one.

The final repair could come from the evolution of The Recording Academy, though it's exhausting to foretell how briskly that may occur. "The previous guard has to relinquish its seat on the desk," says one other business supply. "They've obtained to let some extra new blood in if the Grammys are to outlive."

This article initially appeared within the Feb. 16 difficulty of Billboard.