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Grammys remove secret nomination commissions

When the Recording Academy announced on Friday that it was removing secret – and highly controversial – committees that form nominations for the annual Grammy Awards, many in the music industry interpreted the move as a deliberate response to widespread outrage at Weeknd’s suspension of this year’s ceremony.

Not so, according to the academy’s interim chief executive.

“The road to transformational change like this is a long one,” Harvey Mason Jr. told the Times, adding that the academy convened a working group last summer to consider the committees long before the 63rd Grammy nominations were revealed. . “It̵

7;s not something that happens quickly or in the event of a reaction to an event.”

In fact, the academy has for years criticized the nomination process, which relies on small groups of anonymous insiders to observe, and sometimes alter, the Grammy ballot from the initial election of thousands of voters at the academy. Nomination Review Committees, as they were officially known, were introduced in 1989 to ensure that nominations were properly categorized and accurately reflected the state of music in a given year.

But over time, the work of committees began to be seen as evidence of a problematic system in which insiders reward their friends and punish their enemies. More recently, a number of well-known black artists – including Drake, Frank Ocean and Sean “Didi” Combs – have suggested that Grammy nominations are tainted by institutional racism, as hip-hop and R&B artists, while recognized in genre categories, are routine. neglected for more prestigious awards such as album, record and song of the year.

Complaints grew stronger in 2020 after Deborah Dugan, a former academy leader, raised explosive allegations of discrimination and vote-rigging in a lawsuit involving her removal from the organization. Then The Weeknd, one of the biggest stars of pop, was smoothed out despite the success of his album “After Hours” and his single “Blinding Lights”.

In a tweet after the nominations were announced in November, the singer said the Grammys were “corrupt” and that the academy owed “me, my fans and transparency in the industry.” He later said he planned to boycott the show in the future, explicitly accusing the “secret committees” in a statement to the New York Times.

Asked how he would respond to criticism that a slow-moving academy only works when its hand is forced, Mason said: “I would say that change happens when our members decide it’s time for a change. Our members submit the proposals and then people vote on them. That’s what the membership wants, wants and votes for. “

The response in the music business has been largely positive, with many saying the academy’s elimination of commissions is long overdue. Others have expressed skepticism that the organization’s conflict of interest will suddenly disappear from the voting process.

“I think Harvey’s heart is in the right place, and I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Lenny Beer, editor-in-chief of Hits magazine, who wrote a passionate post in November, concluding that Weeknd was “deliberate.” excluded ”from this year’s nominations. “I hope these changes turn out to be real and true. And I will believe when I see him. “A Weeknd representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking of skepticism, Mason said: “Some people will probably never be happy” and insisted that the nomination process would be clear from now on: “Our 12,000 members will vote and the eight best participants in the vote will be our nominees” in the four main categories of album, record and song of the year, as well as the best new artist. In the Grammy’s dozens of genre categories, the top five voters will be nominated, he said.

“There is no way or possibility to correct the number,” he added.

Harvey Mason Jr.

The interim executive director of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The elimination of the committees was one of several changes to the rules the academy announced on Friday, along with a 15 to 10 reduction in the number of genre awards members are allowed to vote on and a rearrangement of so-called craft categories – which honor production. packaging and the like – in two fields. (Review committees will continue to nominate in these categories.)

The academy also said that two new awards, for best world music performance and best album of música urbana, will be awarded for the first time at the 64 Grammys, scheduled for January 31, 2022. Records eligible for viewing , should be issued between September. 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.

Mason said he was pleased with the warm reviews for this year’s ceremony, which included major victories by Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Megan Tee Stallion and Billy Isle, and which marked the debut of executive producer Ben Winston as creative director of the show after 40 years with Ken Ehrlich in rudder

“It wasn’t easy to produce a show, and it wasn’t cheap to produce,” Mason said, referring to COVID-19 protocols, which affected virtually every aspect of the television show. But he approved of the show’s “intimate quality” and said he was eager to see what Winston and his team would do under more normal circumstances.

The ratings for this year’s CBS show set a record low – with 9.2 million viewers, down more than 50.6% from the previous year, a trend in line with almost all the major awards in the current cycle.

The Grammy Awards next year are unlikely to take place on Mason’s watch. The CEO, who took office after Dugan’s departure, said the search for the group’s next leader had yielded “several great finalists” and that he expected the academy to meet its stated goal of having a new CEO by the end of May. early June.

“Surprisingly,” he said, “I think we’re on schedule.”

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