Image for Grammys President Responds To Claims Of A “Race Problem”Photos: Getty Images / Dan MacMedan & Jason LaVeris

Grammys President Responds To Claims Of A “Race Problem”

Written by Tom Williams on February 15, 2017

The President of The Recording Academy, which produces the annual Grammy Awards, has responded to claims that the show is suffering from a “race problem”, after comparisons were made between this year’s Grammy Awards and the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

Following Adele’s victory over Beyoncé in this year’s Album Of The Year category, numerous people criticised The Grammys for their choice, including the likes of St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, Solange Knowles, and even Adele herself.

Now, in an interview with Pitchfork, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow has responded to the public’s concerns by denying that The Grammys has a “race problem”.

“No, I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” Portnow said.

“We don’t, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity. When you go to vote on a piece of music — at least the way that I approach it — is you almost put a blindfold on and you listen. It’s a matter of what you react to and what in your mind as a professional really rises to the highest level of excellence in any given year. And that is going to be very subjective.

“That’s what we ask our members to do, even in the ballots. We ask that they not pay attention to sales and marketing and popularity and charts. You have to listen to the music. So of the 14,000 voters, they listen, they make up their minds, and then they vote.

“Now here’s the other interesting part of the process, and we stand 100 percent behind the process: It’s a democratic vote by majority. So somebody could either receive or not receive a Grammy based on one vote. It could be that tight.”

Portnow went on to point to Chance The Rapper’s wins in this year’s Best New Artist, Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance categories as examples of diversity in The Recording Academy’s membership.

“The album, record, song and best new artist categories are ones that the entire voting membership is entitled to vote on. 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.”

When asked if The Recording Academy planned to increase diversity among its voters like the Oscars did, Portnow said The Grammys “don’t have that kind of an issue in that same fashion”.

“But we are always working on increase 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,” he said.

The Grammys has previously criticised for last year’s defeat of Kendrick Lamar by Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé’s loss to Beck back in 2015.

Catch a list of this year’s winners here, and read Neil Portnow’s full interview over at Pitchfork.

Watch: Adele’s Album Of The Year Acceptance Speech (Grammys 2017)

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