The Weeknd Slams “Corrupt” Grammys After Getting 0 Nominations
Perhaps the biggest surprise in today’s Grammy nominations was the complete omission of the Weeknd, who had been favored by oddsmakers as the artist likely to walk away with the most nods. (As Billboard points out, Sports Betting Dime had him at 6/5.) Having surveyed the field and beheld his own glory, Abel Tesfaye is pissed. On his social media accounts, he posted a rebuke to the Grammys this evening: “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
Tesfaye is not the first person to allege corruption at the Recording Academy, and he has a point with regard to his own situation in particular. Of course, no one is owed a Grammy nomination, but if anyone had reason to expect one this year, it would be the Weeknd. His cross-format hit single “Blinding Lights” just set the record for most weeks in the top 10 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, a chart the song topped for four weeks this year. Its parent album After Hours also spent four weeks at #1 and spun off another #1 hit in “Heartless” prior to the rise of “Blinding Lights.” Beyond that, the album earned rave reviews. The Grammys have always rewarded commercial success at least as much as artistic quality if not more. Tesfaye had both factors going for him yet came up empty while baffling choices such as Black Pumas and Jacob Collier received Album Of The Year nods. When Ed Sheeran was shut out of the general field categories, they at least nominated him for some genre-specific awards. That the Academy would entirely ignore the Weeknd’s banner year is genuinely baffling.
A new TMZ report suggests the snub might have something to do with Tesfaye’s gig headlining the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 7, a week after the Jan. 31 Grammys ceremony. TMZ’s sources say the Grammys initially gave the Weeknd an ultimatum — you can play the Grammys or the Super Bowl, but not both — but after contentious negotiations, he was allowed to perform at both events. It’s unclear why the Grammys would have a problem with Tesfaye, who has recently given great performances at the VMAs and AMAs, doing both gigs; TMZ speculates it has something to do with CBS, which is broadcasting both the Grammys and the Super Bowl this year, not wanting to air repeat performances, but who even knows. In any case, Tesfaye’s camp reportedly believes lingering bad will from the negotiations contributed to his snub — a hard point to prove, but one that would naturally occur to most folks.
In summary, the Weeknd continues to rule, the Grammys continue to be a shitshow, and all other details remain extremely opaque.
UPDATE: In an interview with Variety, interim Grammys chief Harvey Mason Jr. addresses the Weeknd snub. Here’s that exchange:
I have to say I’ve never seen an album get completely shut out of the nominations that was anywhere near as big, both commercially and critically, as The Weeknd’s After Hours. How does that happen?
Y’know, it really just comes down to the voting body that decides. We have eight nomination slots to fill in [the “Big Four” categories: Best Album, Song, Record and New Artist], five in others, and the voters vote for their favorites. It’s really interesting, though.
Is it the same committee voting on all of the top four categories?
I can understand how he could have been shut out of a genre category — the Pop committee could have said he’s R&B and the R&B committee could have said he’s Pop. But this is unprecedented. Does it put the nominating process into question? Are there plans to revise it?
We look at it every year and make tweaks and revisions to the process; we did it this year, last year, we’ll do it next year. And I don’t think this calls it into question, honestly. The process is there so we can continue to monitor excellence. I was in the “core room” this year [which decides the Big Four] and I observed, and the people that were in it are music professionals — they are excellent, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing, and there are a lot of artists. They were critically listening to every song that came across their desks — or virtual desks — so I don’t think it shows a flaw in the process. I think it’s actually… as you get a nomination, you start to really appreciate the process, where you’re saying, “I really made it through a strenuous and thoughtful process,” to get to who are really the deserving nominees for that given year.
Since you were in the room, do you feel that all of the releases got a fair shake?
Oh absolutely, all the records get the fairest of fair shakes. We listen to all the music — even an album, you’re listening to almost the whole album, it takes I don’t know how many hours. It’s a long, arduous process and people take pride in it. The people in that room care: there’s no agendas in there, there’s no “let’s snub this person” or that person. It’s about, “Let’s try and find excellence.”
Also, you have to remember that committee can’t vote on something that’s not there. They get a list of the 20 top vote-getters from the general voting field, and at that point they listen and talk about who to push forward as the final eight. So it’s really a two-step process.
Was the Weeknd on that shortlist?
We never talk about what’s on the shortlist, so I’ll leave it at that.
One more question about the Weeknd: Can you ever remember a bigger record being shut out of the nominations?
I can’t ever remember a time when we’ve had 23,000 entries — that is the most entries we’ve ever had. I can’t remember a time when we’ve ever had this much range of genres and different types of musicians and music all in the [top four] categories. It’s actually amazing.
Elsewhere in the interview, Mason addresses diversifying the Grammy broadcast, putting on an awards show during a pandemic, incoming executive producer Ben Winston, and more.
UPDATE 2: In a separate interview with TMZ, Mason denies that the Super Bowl gig had anything to do with the Weeknd’s omission from the Grammy nominees. “We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated,” Mason said. “I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent.” Regarding the Super Bowl, he said, “To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before the Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.” And he’s “saddened” by Tesfaye’s contention that the Grammys are corrupt: “I try to empathize with where that came from, but it was difficult to hear.”
UPDATE 3: Tesfaye has issued a second outraged statement about being excluded from the nominees: “Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” His cadence there is a bit Trump-like, no?