The Grammys are back with their tendency to quite heavy-handedly dish out their rigid interpretation of genres, and this time, they’ve set Kacey Musgraves’ new album star-crossed in their sights.
As per Billboard, Cindy Mabe, president of Universal Music Group Nashville, wrote a letter to the CEO of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr., expressing her frustration at the Academy’s decision to exclude Musgraves’ new album from the Country Album of the Year category at the 64th Grammy Awards which will be held at the end of January.
“This decision from the country committee to not accept star-crossed into the country albums category is very inconsistent and calls into question the other agendas that were part of this decision,” she wrote in the letter, which was seen by Billboard.
According to the publication, the body made the decision last week during the Academy’s annual screening committee meeting, where the body reviews all of the submissions and decides how to categorise them.
The body reserves the right to reject certain recordings if they feel that the category the recording has been submitted to is incorrect, however rejected categorical releases will still be eligible for the all-genre Album of the Year category. This is what Mabe believes happened in Musgraves’ case.
Musgraves’ has six-Grammys under her belt, with two of those being wins in the Best Country Album category – 2014 with Same Trailer Different Park and 2019 with Golden Hour, which also won Album of the Year in 2019.
In the letter, Mabe touched on Musgraves’ previous wins in the category, and also outlined why she believes the committee’s decision was a mistake, citing a personal conversation she had with the CEO of the Recording Academy, Mason Jr.
“As a prime stakeholder in country music, I would really like to frame what’s happening in our genre right now and help you and the Grammy’s [sic] fully understand the importance of Kacey Musgraves to country music and why this decision is so much more than an entry point for an awards show,” she wrote.
“Taking her out of the country category actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall.”
She continued: “The numbers speak and are a matter of public record with women making up only 10 percent of all country airplay.”
“This year alone country music has been mired in the controversy surrounding one of the formats [sic] biggest artists, Morgan Wallen, who used a racial slur and grew fans and audience from it.
“THIS IS NOT ALL THAT WE ARE. Under the surface are the artists that change it all and they are led by the example of Kacey Musgraves.”
By definition, the committee states that to be considered for Country Album of the Year, the recording must contain “51% playing time of new country recordings.”
Mabe then went on to compare star-crossed to her previous album, Golden Hour, talking about from an engineering and songwriting standpoint, the similarities between both records.
“To compare Golden Hour to star-crossed, both albums were produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Kacey Musgraves. Both albums were mixed by Shawn Everett.”
“On Golden Hour, Ian, Daniel and Kacey wrote 7 of the 13 songs and on star-crossed they wrote 11 of the 15.”
“Both albums complete each other with Golden Hour telling the story of falling in love and star-crossed telling the conclusion of the breakup. There is no departure in sound from these two projects.”
“This album was consistently classified as country throughout it’s [sic] metadata and overall labeling across the DSP accounts and partners. star-crossed appeared on every major country playlist of every DSP.”
Despite the album being rejected for the country category, the album has been accepted by the pop committee for pop album of the year.
It is still uncertain whether she is hoping the committee will overturn their decision, however she was very clear on wanting the committee to understand the long-term effects of excluding an album like this one from the category.
“I haven’t slept all weekend because I’m really sad for our format,” Mabe continued. “I’m sad for fans of our music and the ramifications of how we’ll continue to define success in country music.”
“This short-sided, biased decision will send ripples throughout our format to continue to insure [sic] that the message is sent that country music can only be for the limited few that enjoy the same perspective.”
The Recording Academy’s CEO has yet to respond.