Artist News Awards Business News

Music industry award debates continue: Grammy voting processes, BRIT categories

By | Published on Friday 12 March 2021

The Weeknd

Ahead of the big Grammys show this weekend, The Weeknd has said that he will never take part in the awards again. He’s not involved this year, of course, because he failed to secure any nominations, despite having the most successful single of 2020.

“Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys”, he tells The New York Times.

Responding to that, the boss of Grammy organisers the US Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr, again denies that there is any underhand process in the selection of nominations. However, he says the organisation will nevertheless continue to review how everything Grammy-related works.

“We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset”, he says. “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”.

The Weeknd’s displeasure at not being nominated this year is not really news, of course. When the nominations were first announced he tweeted that “the Grammys remain corrupt”. He also claimed that he was being punished for agreeing to play the Super Bowl half time show before the Grammys ceremony had a chance to take place – something Mason Jr also denied.

The musician’s manager Wassim Slaiby says they’re still unclear how they failed to get any nominations, adding that they were discussing a performance by The Weeknd at the ceremony until the nominations came out.

“We were many weeks and dozens of calls in with the Grammy team around Abel’s performance, right up to the day of nominations being announced”, says Slaiby. “We were scratching our heads in confusion and wanted answers”.

“The Grammys should handle their legacy and clean it up to raise the bar to a level where everyone could be proud to hold up that award”, he adds. “This is Harvey’s chance to step up and have his legacy be the guy who got the Grammys finally right”.

That kind of suggests that The Weeknd’s boycott isn’t actually permanent, and could be lifted if he’s satisfied that the selection process is transparent enough. Although whether such changes would mean that he’d take it on the chin if he still failed to be nominated remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in UK awards news, the BRITs have reportedly decided not to ditch gender-specific categories. For this year at least. Dividing artists up by their gender has always been stupid, but has come under more scrutiny since major artist and awards contender Sam Smith came out as non-binary.

A source tells The Mirror: “For 2021, there are no changes to the gender categories. The BRITs are committed to evolving the show and it’s still something that’s very much under discussion. There’s no timeline in place, but there is still a possibility of change in later years”.

Organisers fear that if women aren’t given their own categories, they won’t get any nominations. And while it’s depressing to think that that would be the outcome, those aren’t unfounded fears. Last year Mabel was the only woman to appear in the mixed-gender categories at the BRITs.

“If you take away gendered awards you risk not giving a platform to female artists”, the Mirror’s source goes on. “Any change made to be more inclusive needs to be just that. If that change ultimately leads to less inclusion, or a less diverse shortlist, it risks being counter-productive”.

Of course, perpetuating the idea that women just aren’t as good as men when it comes to music, by continuing to force them into their own categories, isn’t really helping either. You don’t affect change by doing nothing. Although, to be fair to all the award organisers, in many ways problems like this just highlight a wider music industry problem.

Still, when the nominees for the mixed-gender BRITs Rising Star Award – which precedes the main ceremony – were announced yesterday, two of the three artists up for the prize – Rina Sawayama and Griff – were women. Plus, more than half of the artists who have won that prize since its launch (as the BRITs Critics’ Choice award) in 2008 have been female. So maybe the music community is capable of having mixed-gender categories and not always skewing entirely male.