Pop Culture with Tatiana

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I Will No Longer Allow My Label to Submit My Music to the Grammys

Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd

How do the Grammy Awards work?

Fun fact! The word “Grammy” comes from the word Gramophone, so they were originally called the Gramophone Awards. The Grammys are the most prestigious awards in the music industry. The nominees and winners are chosen by the Recording Academy.

Who are they? Good question.

According to the Academy, the voting members behind the Grammy awards include music industry professionals who represent a diverse set of backgrounds. Members professions can include anything from vocalists to songwriters and from sound engineers to producers and everything in between. To be qualified for membership, however, voting members must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released tracks on a physical music release or 12 on a digital album. According to Billboard.com, 12,000 of the Academy’s total 21,000 members are eligible to cast ballots.

The Grammy voting process is comprised of several stages consisting of submission, screening, nominating, special nominating committees, final voting, and results. The Academy’s voting members, whose contact information is not disclosed, are all involved in the creative and technical recording fields.

Recording Academy members and record companies submit music and music videos to the Recording Academy for consideration. Submissions must be commercially released during that eligibility year via general distribution in the U.S. by a recording label or recognised independent distributor, on the Internet, through mail order, or retail sales to a national market. 

The Grammys voting procedure is notoriously complex, with review committees having the final say in 72 categories – meaning they can overrule the votes of rank-and-file members.

Photo by Matt Baron Pictured: Harvey Mason Jr (Interim President of The Recording Academy)

The Weeknd

The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) had a commercially very successful 2020. When the 2021 Grammy Award nominations were announced in November, thousands of people were stunned to see that he was not nominated for a single award. His first single off of his most recent album After Hours “Blinding Lights” just became the first song ever to spend a full year in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

This suspicious snub is the oddest in Grammy history. The only people responsible for it are the “secret committees” of the Recording Academy. Deborah Dugan, who was recently fired as President/CEO of the Recording Academy after serving just eight months, spoke of longstanding corruption within the Grammy bureaucracy. While the Weeknd and his team had basically allowed the situation to die down after the nominations were announced last November, even after he performed as the Super Bowl’s headlining halftime performer, it flared up again on the Thursday before the Grammys when he said in a statement to the New York Times that he will boycott the awards, at least until change is instituted.

Why did the snub happen? Possible explanations.

It’s certainly possible that the committees just didn’t give the Weekend enough votes, but few really believe this.

One theory is that someone, and it’s not clear who, simply didn’t want the Weeknd to perform at both the Grammys and the Super Bowl, which were originally scheduled just a week apart (the Grammys were moved from Jan. 31 to this Sunday due to a coronavirus spike in Southern California). That theory is made even more confusing by the fact that the Weeknd’s team, the NFL, CBS (which broadcasts both the Grammys and the Super Bowl) held extensive meetings and worked out the situation so that he could do both, only to have the issue become moot days later, when the Weeknd was excluded from the nominations and effectively out of the running to be a performer on the show.

Among multiple other claims, Dugan’s complaints alleges that some board members on the “secret committees” represent or have relationships with nominated artists; that the Board uses these committees as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships; and that the Board also manipulates the nominations process to ensure that certain songs or albums are nominated when the producer of the Grammys wants a particular song performed during the show. The legal situation between Dugan and the Recording Academy is ongoing.

Interim Grammy chief Harvey Mason jr., who replaced Dugan, declined to find fault with the Academy’s process, saying:

“it really just comes down to the voting body that decides. We have eight nomination slots to fill in [the “Big Four” categories: Best Album, Song, Record and New Artist], five in others, and the voters vote for their favourites. Some of it was [decided by] the [secret] nominating committees and some was the voting body, because some of the awards he was eligible for did not have nominating committees, so it was a combination of both. But again, it’s unfortunate, we never like to see somebody as talented as the Weeknd get left out or feel left out. It’s not something any of us are happy about.”

The Canadian singer called it “an attack”. He told Billboard Magazine “I’m not a cocky person. I’m not arrogant. People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me, we were all very confused.”

The Weeknd’s manager Wassim Slaiby said he hopes the Weeknd’s stand inspires other artists to speak out against the secret committees.

And it did!

Zayn Malik

Zayn Malik has delivered an angry message to the Grammy Awards, five days before this year’s music ceremony is due to take place.

“Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations. Next year I’ll send you a basket of confectionery,” the star tweeted.

Malik has never been nominated, either as a solo act or with his former band One Direction.

His tweet was a bit unexpected because Malik’s latest album wasn’t eligible for this year’s Grammys because it came out after the cut-off date in August. He explained in a subsequent tweet that his comments were “not personal or about eligibility”.

Malik has had a turbulent history with the Grammys, after being disqualified from the best new artist category in 2017 because of his prior success with One Direction. His third album, Nobody Is Listening, which came out in January, will be eligible for consideration next year.

The 63rd Grammys Ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday

Performers on the night will include Cardi B, BTS, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Haim, Megan Thee Stallion and Malik’s former bandmate Harry Styles, who is nominated for three awards.

Beyoncé, who has nine nominations, will be aiming for her first win in a major category since 2010, while Swift has five nominations connected to “Folklore” an album made entirely in quarantine. The show will also address the pandemic’s painful impact on music, with an extended “in memoriam” segment and a spotlight on the independent venues that represent music history, but which have suffered after a year of lost business.

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