Recording Academy President Neil Portnow claimed that the Grammys are not racially biased, during an interview with Pitchfork.
The issue was brought up on Sunday after Adele took home the awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year for 25, which she believed she didn’t deserve. The British artist was flabbergasted by the win, believing that Beyoncé’s Lemonade Album was the rightful choice for this honor.
“What the fuck does [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album of the Year?” remarked Adele, during her acceptance speech.
The Grammys have been criticized for favoring white artists on multiple occasions over the years. This claim was further solidified by the fact that the last time a black artist won the prestigious Album of the Year award it was Herbie Hancock in 2008.
Portnow refuted this allegation by explaining that the voting process is done by the entire Academy, which consists of 14,000 members, and is as objective as it could possibly be. Music and art in general is “inherently subjective,” argued Portnow, therefore absolute objectivity would be quite impossible.
He also pointed out that Chance the Rapper, a young black hip hop artist from Chicago, Illinois, won Best New Artist.
“You don’t get Chance the Rapper as the Best New Artist of the year if you have a membership that isn’t diverse and isn’t open-minded and isn’t really listening to the music, and not really considering other elements beyond how great the music is.”
Lack of Diversity
However, this claim too was criticized, given that the majority of the Recording Academy members are still old white males. This lack of diversity among the voting panel provides a skewed perception of objectivity.
When asked whether the Academy would be opened to diversification, Portnow responded “We are always working on increasing diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age, in order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board.”