The Grammy president says women need to “step up” if they want more awards

It’s no coincidence that we didn’t pay a ton of attention to the Grammys this year. Awards shows that consistently fail to recognize the cultural achievements of women and people of color are laregely irrelevant in the Galore universe.

And a new quote from the president of the Recording Academy released this morning 100% backs up our point of view.

At last night’s Grammy award show, only one woman walked away with an award. One. Woman.

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That woman was Alessia Cara, and she won for Best New Artist. It was an upset, as people expected SZA or Khalid to win.

But even more shocking was that SZA didn’t win a single one of the five awards for which she was nominated, despite the fact that her album was a hit with critics. Also, Lorde was the only woman nominated for Album of the Year — and she was coincidentally the only AOTY nominee who wasn’t asked to perform at the show.

So this morning, Variety ran a quote from Recording Academy president Neil Portnow that might just make you throw your phone at a wall. When asked about the #GrammysSoMale phenomenon, he had this to say:

“It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”


Women who have creativity in their hearts and souls already make outsize contributions the musical landscape. Women were all over the Billboard Top 10 from September onward. Cardi B continues to be the most buzzed-about artist, but went home with zero statues last night. Lana Del Rey’s “Lust For Life” was also snubbed.

The Academy was probably right to snub Katy Perry and Taylor Swift for their mediocre releases last year… but there’s no way Ed Sheeran deserved to win best pop vocal album over all the women in that category. His music isn’t bad at all, but is it game-changing? Absolutely not.

Of course, talking about how the Academy snubs women is only part of the picture.

The Academy also habitually snubs artists of color if their music isn’t family-friendly. If you want to win a Grammy, your best bet is to either be a white man with a guitar (Ed Sheeran) or a person of color whose music is so inoffensive, white moms love it (Bruno Mars). That’s why the thoughtful, interesting music of rappers like Kendrick Lamar is passed over in favor of radio-friendly, overproduced bops you only hear when you’re waiting to pick up a prescription at CVS.

No shade to Sheeran or Mars, their music is great — it’s just that artists like Lana Del Rey, Cardi B, SZA, Kendrick and Khalid are the ones taking chances and creating music that makes people think. Maybe if they played it a little more safe, they’d get the Grammys, but then their music wouldn’t be half as good as it is.

So no, women do not need to “step up.” The Recording Academy needs to step into the 21st century.

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