The Weeknd Decides to Boycott the Grammys – Permanently

Don’t expect to see him pick up a golden gramophone anytime soon

The 63rd Grammy Awards will be held this Sunday, March 14, in Los Angeles. Hosted by Trevor Noah and featuring a huge slate of performers, including Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, BTS, Doja Cat, Harry Styles, and Silk Sonic, the ceremony will be one of the few major awards shows in recent memory that won’t be mostly virtual.

However, at the center of the conversation around the Grammys continues to be the nominations, specifically the snub of one Abel Tesfaye aka the Weeknd. The artist’s biggest album to date, After Hours, featuring global phenomena and record breakers like “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” failed to garner a single nomination despite being seen as one of the frontrunners for the night. The Weeknd retaliated by calling out the Recording Academy for being “corrupt,” and has now taken it one step further.

In a statement he gave to the New York Times, the Weeknd said, “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.” By “secret committees,” he’s referring to the anonymous committees that whittle down the industry votes from the members of the Recording Academy to the actual nominations. This means that until his decision changes, the Weeknd’s labels (XO and Republic) won’t be sending any of his music to be considered for nomination at future Grammy ceremonies.

This move comes amid heavy criticism from several artists of the Grammy’s actions, ranging from repeatedly snubbing their work to accusations of bribery and racial or gender bias. Just last week alone, Zayn Malik took to Twitter to call out the Grammys for not considering artists unless they were “shaking hands and sending gifts.” Justin Bieber was vocal about his disappointment over the Grammys nominating his 2020 album Changes in the pop categories instead of the R&B ones, amidst criticism over his nomination in the first place. And several artists like Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Frank Ocean have repeatedly brought up the lack of diverse recognition at the ceremony. Oh, and Kanye West urinated on one.

This isn’t the first time that the Grammys have attracted the ire of fans or artists. The decisions regarding nominations and wins have always been questioned, especially in terms of the standard being set. If the Grammys focused on rewarding quality music first and foremost, there wouldn’t have been an outcry over Beyoncé’s (this year’s most nominated artist) loss for Lemonade or Kendrick Lamar’s loss for good kid, m.A.A.d. city. If it were about popularity, then artists like Katy Perry, Diana Ross, and Minaj wouldn’t be sitting with zero wins. Halsey, who received significant acclaim for her last album Manic and has been one of the biggest sellers of the last few years, has never been nominated for her solo work. And when she herself was shut out, she instead received criticism for not acknowledging the snub of collaborator BTS.

As the above paragraph shows, a large part of the trend also leans towards more women getting shut out of nominations and wins in the big categories. Only two women have won over 20 Grammy awards: Beyoncé and Alison Krauss. 16 men have managed to do so. While that has started to change (reflective in women holding their own in this year’s pool of nominations), it has still remained a sore spot in the Grammys’ record.

Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s interim chief executive, released a statement in response to the Weeknd, saying, “We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset. 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 shutting himself out of the Grammys deprives the awards, still the biggest ceremony recognizing music (at least Stateside), of a major player and contender for future performances and wins. If other artists were to pull this move, say Grammy darlings like Beyoncé or Lamar, it would greatly diminish the quality of work being represented on the Grammys stage each year.

Efforts are being made to change the set-up of the Academy, including inviting thousands of new members, hiring a diversity officer, and adding more women and people of color to important positions. But those moves need to be reflected in the list of nods for it to really mean anything for the people on the outside.

The 63rd Grammy Awards will be airing this Sunday on CBS starting at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.

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