Welp... The Boss of the Grammys Doesn't Think the Awards Have a Race Problem
Of course this guy doesn't think the Grammys have a race problem. Of course!!!
After Beyoncé lost to Adele for this year's Album of the Year Grammy, the music industry raised a collective eyebrow, and exhaled a collective "huh?" Hell, even Adele herself joined in, dedicating her acceptance speech to the woman she called "the artist of my life," and asking at her press Q&A after receiving the award: "What the fuck does [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album of the Year?" Quite.
The Lemonade snub raised the issue of whether racism is at play in the Grammys system, a topic which has previously been broached publicly by artists like Frank Ocean, who refused to attend or submit work for consideration at this year's award. Back in November, Ocean told the New York Times that the Grammys "just doesn't seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down."
Since Beyoncé was denied this year's award, however, more and more artists have come forward to cite a problem, with many noting that a black artist has now not won Album of the Year since 2008. In a since-deleted-tweet Solange wrote "there have only been two black winners in the last 20 years for album of the year".
So, in the interests of getting answers, yesterday Pitchfork asked Grammys president Neil Portnow whether he thought the Grammys system had a race problem. He responded with a kind of "I DON'T SEE RACE!!" explanation, noted the awards are decided via popular vote, and pointed towards the subjectivity of art and the supposed diversity of the Academy, but it kinda feels like the lady doth protest too much:
"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."