“I Don’t Think There’s A Race Problem At All”: The Grammys Boss Has Hit Back At Claims Of Bias
"You don’t get Chance the Rapper as the Best New Artist of the year if you have a membership that isn’t diverse and isn’t open-minded."
Grammy boss Neil Portnow has shot down suggestions that the music awards suffer from “a race problem”, in the wake of Beyonce’s loss to Adele in the major categories on Monday.
The decision to give Album of the Year to Adele’s 25 ahead of Beyonce’s Lemonade has been questioned by prominent recording artists, including Adele who asked “what the fuck does [Beyonce] have to do to win?”
Beyonce’s snub came after a number of black musicians including Kanye West and Frank Ocean chose to skip this year’s ceremony. Ocean slammed the producers in a fiery tumblr post over the weekend, accusing the show of “cultural bias”.
2013 – mumford over frank
2014 – daft punk over kendrick
2015 – beck over beyonce
2016 – taylor over kendrick
2017 – adele over beyonce
— very festive tweets (@adam_lewis) February 13, 2017
Nevertheless, Portnow defended Grammy voters from the suggestion that race influenced their thinking.
“I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” Portnow told Pitchfork. “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. They have to qualify in order to be members, which means they have to have recorded and released music, and so they are sort of the experts and the highest level of professionals in the industry.”
“We don’t, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity,” he continued. “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. It’s a matter of what you react to and what in your mind as a professional really rises to the highest level of excellence in any given year. And that is going to be very subjective.”
Asked whether the Recording Academy would follow the lead of the Motion Picture Academy, which made a concerted push to increase diversity among voting members after back to back years of #OscarsSoWhite, Portnow said that “we don’t have that kind of an issue in that same fashion” before adding that “we are always working on increase diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age.”
“You don’t get Chance the Rapper as the Best New Artist of the year if you have a membership that isn’t diverse and isn’t open-minded and isn’t really listening to the music.”