At the Grammys, a New Guard in the Spotlight and a Nasty Fight Backstage


The 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday is bringing collectively star-studded performances by Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Aerosmith, wacky collaborations involving Lil Nas X and BTS and particular tributes to artists just like the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Girls shall be entrance and heart at this 12 months’s ceremony. For the 4 greatest awards—album of the 12 months, music and document of the 12 months and finest new artist—greater than two-thirds of the nominees are feminine artists or acts fronted by ladies. The newest Grammy nominations have received reward for acknowledging a brand new wave of feminine, usually genre-blurring, stars like Billie Eilish, together with extra artists of colour.

However as an alternative of specializing in pop’s new guard, the Grammys are unearthing previous issues. The Recording Academy, which hosts the Grammys, is dealing with a risk to its legitimacy fueled by a really messy public dispute with its first-ever feminine chief government, Deborah Dugan, that began 10 days earlier than the ceremony. It started when the Recording Academy mentioned it put Ms. Dugan on go away, primarily based on a subordinate’s declare that her administration type was bullying. Ms. Dugan fired again with a discrimination grievance alleging sexual misconduct and improper Grammy voting practices. This has, in flip, raised questions on whether or not the Recording Academy is actually grappling with the issues—an absence of range and transparency—which have dogged it for years.

The Recording Academy’s first-ever feminine CEO, Deborah Dugan, on the 62nd Grammy Awards nominations information convention in November. Ms. Dugan, who was placed on go away by the Academy, fired again with a discrimination grievance.


Photograph:

Charles Sykes/Related Press

“The Grammys are dealing with a credibility disaster,” says Invoice Werde, a former editorial director at Billboard journal and director of Syracuse College’s Bandier music-industry program. “The query is: Do they need to try to climate this, or do they need to repair the perceived issues? In the event that they don’t, then, over the lengthy haul, I do assume they’re dealing with an existential disaster.”

For years, the Recording Academy has been a lightning rod—for its perceived lack of recognition of girls and black artists, particularly in hip-hop & R&B; for its restricted transparency on the subject of voting processes; and its document of favoring industrial blockbusters over crucial favorites or zeitgeist-capturing upstarts.

A few of this, the Academy’s critics say, stems from its management and voting physique—64% of the Recording Academy board is male, in keeping with the group. Its voting members and nomination-review committees, which slender the highest 15 to 20 nominees picked by voters down to 5 or eight nominees, have traditionally been populated by older, white and male voices.

As of October, solely 22% of Grammy voters had been ladies. Regardless of an enchancment within the variety of feminine nomination-review committee members final 12 months, the share of girls on such committees for this 12 months’s awards dropped from 51% to 44%.

Questions in regards to the Academy’s gender range spilled out into the open in January 2018 when Ms. Dugan’s predecessor

Neil Portnow

made feedback that girls wanted to “step up” to climb the music {industry}’s ranks. In consequence, the Academy launched a Job Power on Range and Inclusion in March 2018, led by

Tina Tchen

of the newly shaped Time’s Up, and printed a 47-page report with 18 suggestions for systemic adjustments in December. These included rising range on all Academy committees, with equal illustration of women and men, and altering the Board’s election system in order that the management is extra numerous.

Pop-R&B singer and rapper Lizzo was nominated for eight Grammy awards, together with document of the 12 months, album of the 12 months, and finest new artist.


Photograph:

Owen Sweeney/Related Press

In different main adjustments, the Grammy Awards in June 2018 expanded the variety of nominees for its high prizes to eight, from 5—an effort to broaden the array of acts it acknowledges. In idea, this opens the door to extra ladies artists, hip-hop & R&B acts and important favorites, although it may possibly additionally imply extra vote-splitting that favors larger acts.

In November 2018, the Academy widened its membership guidelines. It intensified efforts to diversify its voting physique with extra feminine, nonwhite and youthful members, together with on its nomination-review committees.

The efforts appeared to bear some fruit. But the most recent controversy threatens to set the Recording Academy again significantly, critics say.

On Thursday, the Recording Academy process drive on range expressed its “shock and dismay” on the newest allegations surrounding the Academy and urged its management and board to “commit themselves to actual reform.”

“These new expenses reinforce simply how vital and pressing it’s that the Academy implement all the adjustments within the report that we delivered [in December]—with none delay,” the assertion says.

Ms. Dugan’s grievance with the Equal Employment Alternative Fee alleges the Academy’s basic counsel sexually harassed her and that its board of administrators improperly influences nominations for the Grammy awards.

In her grievance, Ms. Dugan known as the Grammy voting course of “ripe with corruption.” The grievance claims the Academy’s board makes use of nomination-review committees to “push ahead artists with whom they’ve relationships.” (These nomination-review committees are formally permitted to choose nominees that aren’t among the many 20 or so front-runners picked by voting members.) Ms. Dugan additionally contends the board manipulates the method to make sure songs or albums are nominated when the present’s producer needs a music carried out on the present.

In a press release Thursday, Invoice Freimuth, the Academy’s chief awards officer, mentioned such claims “are categorically false, deceptive and incorrect.”

A key purpose the Grammys began creating so-called “secret” nomination-review committees in 1989 within the first place—there’s now one for hip-hop, for instance—was to counterbalance the biases of a stodgy voting bloc, which typically voted primarily based totally on recognition or brand-name recognition. Members of nomination-review committees are confidential to stop “lobbying from outdoors events,” Mr. Freimuth says in his assertion.

However to many Grammy-watchers, Ms. Dugan’s grievance appeared to substantiate present perceptions of the Grammys—the exact same entrenched issues which have made it exhausting for feminine and black artists specifically to realize recognition. This, the logic goes, is why Adele received album of the 12 months over Beyoncé in 2017.

The opaqueness of the Grammy voting course of fuels an absence of belief. “The entire thing simply must be much more public,” Mr. Werde says.

Write to Neil Shah at neil.shah@wsj.com

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