Why do we keep seeing the music industry’s biggest honour sh-tting on the music industry’s biggest artists? We’re not just talking Grammy nomination snubs here. We’re talking about the Recording Academy allegedly mudslinging behind closed doors. This year it’s The Weeknd’s turn to take it in the face, but he’s not doing it silently.
Yesterday, Lainey wrote about her takeaways from 2021 Grammy nominations, which saw Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, HAIM, Jhené Aiko, and Taylor Swift notably recognized. The artist completely shut out of this year’s nominations was The Weeknd, despite going into this year as a frontrunner. The original working theories, as Lainey outlined, were that perhaps the nomination committee didn’t know which category to place him in and thus his album was left stranded. After “Abel” and “ROBBED” were trending on Twitter all day, The Weeknd sent out his own tweet, calling the Grammys corrupt and demanding transparency into why his work was excluded. Not subtle.
The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency...— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) November 25, 2020
I wonder how many times he rewrote that tweet before pressing send. There are no takesies backsies when it comes to going against the Grammys. He’s far from the first artist to post a salty message after being snubbed but it certainly hits different when you’ve got the whole industry asking the same question: WHAT HAPPENED? Abel’s album After Hours is the third most-consumed album of 2020. Its singles “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” both went #1 and the latter has spent a record breaking 40 weeks in the Top 10 — it’s currently #7. But he’s not just winning the popularity contest, which is often meaningless to the Grammys, he’s also critically acclaimed. Variety named “Blinding Lights” record of the year and After Hours was included on everyone’s mid-year best albums of 2020 lists.
So how did one of the year’s best projects get passed over? Well, the Recording Academy is messy and vindictive… according to TMZ. They claim The Weeknd was in bitter negotiations with the Grammys because they wanted him to perform on their show and not the Super Bowl Halftime Show, which airs just a week after this year’s Grammy Awards. But you’d have to be stupid to pass up the Super Bowl, right? That’s 100 million viewers. So, The Weeknd was trying to reach an agreement to do both, but the back and forth ruffled all the feathers at the Recording Academy and sources say this soured relationship led to zero nominations. Knowing the Academy’s keeper-of-the-keys mentality, I believe it. However, Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. tells PEOPLE, the Super Bowl headlining gig in no way could have affected the nominations because voting closed before the performance was announced.
"We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”
I don’t know, Mr. Grammys CEO guy. I find it hard to believe more people would have voted for Jacob Collier, Haim, Jhené Aiko or Black Pumas to get them in the Album of the Year category over The Weeknd. I also think saying voting closed before The Weeknd was announced as the Super Bowl Halftime performer is meaningless. You and The Weeknd knew he was performing long before it was made public. Plus, even after voting closes, we know that the nominations have to go to the infamous secret committees who have the power to take out nominations that may embarrass the Academy.
Remember last year in the days leading up to the awards their former CEO (who was on administrative leave at the time) filed a 44 page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the Academy of retaliation and voting irregularities, and results tainted by board members conflict of interests. She alleged in the 2019 Song of the Year nomination process, an artist who got the 18th most votes earned a nomination because they were represented by a member of the board and were allowed to sit on the nomination committee. That’s some serious double-dipping in the conflict of interest pool and just one example of their credibility problem which they’re doing nothing about. Yesterday, the CEO mentioned how he’s proud of the diversity of this year’s nominees over and over again, but The Weeknd — arguably the most successful Black artist eligible this year — couldn’t score one nomination? They’re completely focused on the diversity problem, but that’s never going to be fixed if they continue this behind-closed-doors behaviour.
The Weeknd’s not the first artist to be pushed around by the Academy. In 2019, Ariana Grande called out longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich for lying on her name after he claimed she pulled out of performing because it was “too late for her to pull something together". She actually pulled out because they wanted to dictate which songs she could and couldn’t perform.
In 2012, Nicki Minaj says Grammys producers came into her dressing room before her performance and requested she not go through with her performance. A request which she denied, after shooting commercials and promos for the show and her fans tuning in to see her take the stage. She told the unbelievable story on Queen Radio in 2019 after years of feeling blackballed by the Grammys because she pissed off Ken Ehrlich. That same night in 2012 she was a frontrunner for the Best New Artist category but lost to Bon Iver. Interestingly, Bon Iver has charted on the Billboard Hot 100 three times in his career, and two of those songs were featuring Nicki Minaj. I’m not saying charts are everything, but they count for something.
Never forget the Grammys didnâ€™t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver. #PinkFriday— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) November 24, 2020
The root of the Grammys problems stretches far deeper than just diversity quotas. Going back to The Weeknd’s tweet, he doesn’t say the Grammys are corrupt. He says, “the Grammys remain corrupt.” The fault is not because he wasn’t nominated, the fault has been here and the list of artists who aren’t afraid of the repercussions of going against the Academy continues to grow. We’re no longer living in a world where winning a Grammy was the pinnacle of success and literally equated to millions more albums sold. I don’t care if my favourite artist has a Grammy. I just want them to have a new album for me to stream every two years. The Weeknd is joining artists like Drake, who appeared to get his mic cut during a Grammys acceptance speech after essentially saying the award don’t matter, and Mariah Carey, who’s said she’s not going to sing barefoot to try and fit this idea of what the Grammys consider artistic excellence.
“I mean, I have five Grammys. That’s cute. There’s people that have been doing this half the time that have twice as many,” she told V Magazine in 2018.
Except The Weeknd is different from Nicki and Drake and Mariah in the sense that he clearly still wants approval from the Grammys. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the best in their field? I didn’t feel like his tweet was grossly cocky — I think he’s rightfully shocked. Imagine all year you’re passing the prerequisite courses with flying colours: scoring chart toppers, breaking streaming records, dominating the other award shows, and getting invited to perform everywhere. All the signs are pointing to you being named valedictorian, but then you get to the end of the year and you didn’t even make honour roll. I’d want some transparency too!