The Weeknd alleges Grammys corruption after nominations snub
Canadian pop star the Weeknd has said the Grammys “remain corrupt” after receiving no nominations in the latest awards list for his 2020 album After Hours, nor for 2019 single Blinding Lights, which became the biggest song of the past year.
Writing on Twitter, Abel Tesfaye said the Recording Academy “[owed] me, my fans and the industry transparency”.
Rolling Stone reports that a source “close to the situation” claimed that Tesfaye was snubbed owing to conflict over whether he could perform at the Grammys ceremony as well as the 2021 Super Bowl. It was “eventually agreed upon that he would perform at both events,” they said. “[The Recording Academy] had all these convos with the Weeknd team in the past month, and today on November 24th, the Weeknd had not one nomination and is now completely ignored by the Grammys.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Recording Academy chair and interim president Harvey Mason Jr said that voting in all categories ended prior to the announcement of the Weeknd’s Super Bowl appearance, “so in no way could it have affected the nomination process”.
Mason Jr said: “We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathise with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration.”
Tesfaye was not the only snubbed artist to criticise the Recording Academy. Pop star Teyana Taylor received no nominations for her third album, The Album, released this year. Responding to the all-male nominees for best R&B album, she tweeted: “Y’all was better off just saying best MALE R&B ALBUM cause all I see is dick in this category.”
This year’s nominations prompted Nicki Minaj to recall being snubbed in the best new artist category in 2012, a year when she dominated with the pop charts. She tweeted: “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on Billboard. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”
Meanwhile, Justin Bieber, who received three nominations for material from his fifth album, Changes – best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance and best pop vocal album – expressed his discontent that he had not been recognised in R&B categories, having set out to make an R&B record.
In a statement posted on Instagram, Bieber said that while he was “flattered” to be nominated, “I grew up admiring R&B music and wished to make a project that would embody that sound. For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniable, unmistakably an R&B album!”
His comments reflect concerns from previous years’ Grammy nominations that the Recording Academy routinely sidelines Black artists to racialised genre categories instead of the so-called “big four” generalist categories, foregrounding stereotypes around identity over musical style.
The Killers, also snubbed for their 2020 album Imploding the Mirage, took a more tongue-in-cheek approach to their complaint. “OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE COUNTING ROOMS,” the group tweeted. “WE WON THE GRAMMYS, GOT LOADS OF LEGAL VOTES. BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. DOZENS OF BALLOTS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM! #RIGGEDGRAMMYS #WEWON
The nominations for this year’s Grammys – whose winners will be announced on 31 January – have been met with a mixed response. This year marks the first time that women have populated all five nominations for best rock song, and for best country album (with the inclusion of Little Big Town, a mixed-gender group) – both welcomed as progress from a sclerotic institution.
But critics and music fans expressed confusion at the best album category, in which assumed nominees such as Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa shared space with a deluxe edition of US psychedelic band Black Pumas’ 2019 album and little-known British musician Jacob Collier. Fiona Apple and Bob Dylan, widely considered to be in line for nominations for their respective 2020 albums Fetch the Bolt Cutters and Rough and Rowdy Ways, were excluded from the category. Many thought the late rapper Pop Smoke was also snubbed, receiving just one nomination for best rap performance.