Despite claims that the Grammys is racist, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow voices his belief there’s no “race problem,” nor the need to take steps to diversify the candidate pool. In fact, in a new interview with Pitchfork, the music executive suggests that in order to see change, people should shut up, put up, and join the Academy — so to speak.
“No, I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” said Portnow. “Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the GRAMMYs, it’s not a corporate entity. It’s the 14,000 members of the Academy.” As for the peer-vote, Portnow is referring to the 14K voting members of The Recording Academy. All of whom must have a minimum number of credits on commercially available albums (the number differs for physical and digital distribution) or one Grammy nomination, as well as pay a $100 annual dues in order to qualify. This means everyone from liner-notes authors to A&R reps and engineers to fellow artists are voting on the awards, Billboard reports.
As you may recall, s— hit the fan during last weekend’s annual ceremony, after powerhouse vocalist Adele racked up five awards including Album, Record, and Song of the Year, snubbing Yonce’s viral visual Lemonade. The British songstress gave Bey a nod during her acceptance speech, saying, ““I can’t possibly accept this award and I’m very humble and gracious but the artist of my life is Beyoncé and the Lemonade album was just so monumental and so well thought out and so beautiful and soul-baring.” It wasn’t enough to calm critics who immediately rushed social media with claims that Bey’s snub was race-related. For nearly a decade — since Herbie Hancock’s 2008 win — only White artists have received the accolade of Album of the Year.
“We don’t, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity. When you go to vote on a piece of music — at least the way that I approach it is — you almost put a blindfold on and you listen,” he continued, pointing out the distinct differences between the Grammy’s and the Academy Awards’ #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “We don’t have that kind of an issue in that same fashion,” he said. “But we are always working on increasing diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age. In order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board.”
Meanwhile, backstage, Adele sided with critics, telling reporters, “My view is, like, ‘What the f**k does she have to do to win Album of the Year?'” She continued, “The Grammys are very traditional, but I just thought this year would be the year that they would kind of go with the tide.”
What are your thoughts on the Grammys’ response to claims of racism? Is the issue skin deep or does the issue rest more with hip hop music and culture in general? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below.