The Weeknd Calls Grammy Rule Change “A Positive Move For The Future Of This Plagued Award” But Is Still Boycotting
A lot of musical artists were angry at the Grammys this year, and none seemed more justified than the Weeknd. Abel Tesfaye’s After Hours was about as big a hit as an album can be this year: It spent four weeks at #1. It sold nearly half a million copies and racked up more than 2 million equivalent album units once streaming and track sales are factored in. It has thus far spun off two #1 hits, with a third expected when the new Hot 100 is revealed today. One of those hits, “Blinding Lights,” has become certifiably the biggest hit in Hot 100 history. Beyond the kind of commercial dominance the Grammys tend to celebrate, the album is a wildly impressive evolution of the Weeknd’s signature dark-hued pop and R&B. The reviews were generally quite positive. So when the nominations came out and Tesfaye was completely snubbed, he wanted answers.
In the wake of the nominations, the Weeknd wrote on his social media accounts, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…” Specifically, he was upset about the anonymous expert committees tasked with narrowing down shortlists for most categories from thousands of submissions. He soon announced that he would be boycotting the awards for the rest of his career: “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
On Friday, the Recording Academy announced that its board of trustees had voted to eliminate those secret committees in response to criticism from Tesfaye and others. Interim Grammys CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said the committees were instituted in 1989 “to eliminate the potential for a general-awareness bias that might favor artists who enjoy greater name recognition over emerging artists, independent music and late-year releases.” But his predecessor Deborah Dugan — who was ousted last year after bringing public complaints against the Recording Academy regarding sexual harassment and correuption — has criticized the committees, saying they are rife with conflicts of interest.
Today the Weeknd has issued a statement to The New York Times addressing the Academy’s choice to eliminate the secret committees. He’s pleased with the progress but still does not plan to engage with the Grammys going forward. “Even though I won’t be submitting my music, the Grammys’ recent admission of corruption will hopefully be a positive move for the future of this plagued award and give the artist community the respect it deserves with a transparent voting process.” It should be noted that the Grammys have not admitted to corruption, but this change at least seems like it will make the process less shadowy and opaque.