The Weeknd says he is boycotting the Grammys this Sunday because of the “secret committees” that help decide the nominations. He’s the latest mega-star to skip out on the award show, which has been criticised for overlooking Black and female artists.
The Canadian R&B and pop artist is by many measures at the height of his career — recently playing the Super Bowl and breaking the single-song record for longest time spent in the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 — but he wasn’t nominated for any awards.
A nonprofit called the Recording Academy puts on the Grammys each year, and anonymous expert committees review the initial choices from the thousands of music professionals who are academy members. These committees have final say on 61 of the show’s 84 categories, but aren’t involved in picking the winners of the four pop categories.
A number of high-profile artists like Beyoncé, Solange, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean have skipped or criticised the Grammys in recent years for failing to honour artists of colour even though the genres they created—hip-hop, soul, reggaeton—dominate the global music conversation.
A Black artist hasn’t won album of the year since Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute in 2008, and a Black woman hasn’t won since Lauryn Hill in 1999. The critically and publicly adored Beyoncé is up for nine nominations at this weekend’s show. She hasn’t won in a major category since 2010.
Harvey Mason Jr, a producer and songwriter, is the interim chief of the Recording Academy and is the Grammy’s first ever Black leader.
“We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset,” Mr Mason told the Times. “But I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”
In 2019, a task force led by Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, helped make recommendations to make the Grammys more equitable, and the academy has followed through on many of those requests, including inviting academy members and putting more women and people of colour in leadership positions.
“The changes have been transformative,” Mr Mason added.
The show has even been criticised by white artists who win. In 2017, Adele won album of the year, but gave a speech onstage saying it should’ve gone to Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
The fracas with the high-profile star is the latest complication for this year’s ceremony, the 63rd in its history, after it was delayed due to coronavirus.