Artist News Awards

Fiona Apple criticises Grammys over Dr Luke nomination

By | Published on Monday 21 December 2020

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple says she has mixed feelings about being nominated in this year’s Grammys for her song ‘Shameika’ because of ongoing controversies around the awards event.

The song – from her ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ album – is up for Best Rock Performance. In an interview with The Guardian, she says that she initially wanted to celebrate the fact that all six nominees in that category this year are female-fronted acts – Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Brittany Howard, The Big Thief and Grace Potter, alongside Apple. However, with all the criticism made against the awards in terms of representation of women, she felt that marking this would be “exactly what they want me to do”.

“I immediately had this feeling: I wish I was in a room with these ladies and we could celebrate”, she adds. “I felt really nice for a second. Every week I send a selfie to Simon, who runs the Tumblr site on me. I thought, for that week’s selfie, I’m gonna make a t-shirt with everybody’s names in little hearts: Phoebe; Brittany; Danielle, Este, Alana [Haim]; Adrienne [Lenker, The Big Thief]; Grace. But then I threw it away. I felt like this is exactly what they want me to do: It’s better now! I got nominated! And it’s all women this year and the Grammys are great!”

The Grammys, of course, have been subject to increasing controversy in recent years – not least for its lack of gender diversity, a controversy exacerbated by former boss Neil Portnoy’s infamous “women need to step up” comment in 2018.

Then earlier this year numerous claims of discrimination and corruption were made against the awards event and its producer the US Recording Academy by the organisation’s short-lived President Deborah Dugan, after she was fired shortly before this year’s Grammys show.

Despite being nominating entirely alongside other female musicians in the rock performance category this year, Apple reckons the Grammys and the Academy have plenty of work still to do to tackle the various criticisms and allegations. She also expresses concern that Dr Luke – under the pseudonym Tyson Trax – has a Record Of The Year nomination for his work on Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ – one of two tracks he produced on her ‘Hot Pink’ album, which was also released by his Kemosabe label.

Dr Luke is still involved in a legal battle with Kesha, of course, over abuse allegations she made against the producer. Luke has always denied the allegations and pretty much all but his defamation lawsuit against her have now been dismissed. Nevertheless, that particular controversy continues, hence Apple’s unease at the producer getting a Grammy nomination.

She notes that two years ago, awards organisers seemed to throw their support behind Kesha when she performed her song ‘Praying’ at the event. That song is generally thought to be directed at Dr Luke – with Kesha saying in 2017 that it’s “about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal”.

“I keep going back to them putting Kesha on stage like, ‘we believe you’ – and I believe her – then two years later, fucking Tyson Trax”, says Apple. “It’s bullshit. The feeling of wanting to celebrate with these women was genuine. But I should have that feeling anyway”.

“I don’t know if anybody who’s nominated can help having the thought: what would I do If I won? My vision was that I would just get up there with a sledgehammer and I wouldn’t say anything, I would take the Grammy and smash it into enough pieces to share and I would invite all the ladies up. My second thought was I wonder if I can get all these ladies to boycott this shit because of Dr Luke”.

Despite various efforts by the Recording Academy to respond to the criticisms – from Duggan and the wider music community – plenty of controversies remain. After the nominations for the 2021 event were announced last month, The Weeknd and Halsey both accused the event of corruption, after they received no nominations.