The Weeknd pledges permanent Grammys boycott

The Canadian star – who had the biggest song of 2020 yet earned no Grammy nominations – will no longer submit music for consideration

The Weeknd, AKA Canadian pop star Abel Tesfaye, has pledged a permanent boycott of the Grammys, alleging corruption within its nomination process.

“Because of the secret committees,” he told the New York Times, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”

The committees that Tesfaye mentions are selected by the Recording Academy to review the nominations by its huge voting membership. They retain executive power over who makes the official shortlists. They are also able to add artists who receive zero nominations in all but the four primary categories.

Despite having the biggest song of 2020 in Blinding Lights and a double-platinum album in After Hours, Tesfaye received no nominations for this year’s Grammys. “The Grammys remain corrupt,” he tweeted when the shortlists were unveiled in November. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency …”

Of Tesfaye’s newly announced boycott, Grammys interim president Harvey Mason Jr told the New York Times: “We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset. But I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”

Mason said that the nomination review committees were established in 1989 “to eliminate the potential for a general-awareness bias that might favour artists who enjoy greater name recognition over emerging artists, independent music and late-year releases”.

Kanye West’s last appearance at the Grammys, performing with Paul McCartney and Rihanna in 2015.
Kanye West’s last appearance at the Grammys, performing with Paul McCartney and Rihanna in 2015. Photograph: Robert Gauthier/LA Times via Getty Images

Tesfaye is among a growing number of artists who have questioned the integrity of the event after it has repeatedly appeared to snub Black artistry. The last Black artist to win album of the year was Herbie Hancock in 2008, for a tribute to Joni Mitchell.

After the Weeknd received zero nominations for the 2021 awards, Drake called for the Grammys to be replaced with “something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come”.

Posting on Instagram, Drake highlighted Lil Baby, Pop Smoke, Partynextdoor, Popcaan and “too many missing names to even name” as artists snubbed by the Recording Academy this year.

He wrote: “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones who come after.”

In 2016, Frank Ocean did not submit his albums Blonde and Endless for consideration, describing the Recording Academy’s processes as dated. “That institution certainly has nostalgic importance,” he told the New York Times. “It 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.”

Kanye West has not attended the ceremony since 2015, after criticising the Recording Academy for not nominating his albums My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – arguably the most acclaimed album of the 2010s – and Watch the Throne, his collaboration with Jay-Z.

In 2015, after Beck beat Beyoncé’s monumentally acclaimed Lemonade for album of the year, he told E!: “The Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We aren’t going to play with them no more. Beck needs to respect artistry, he should have given his award to Beyoncé.”

This week, Zayn Malik, formerly of One Direction, tweeted: “Fuck the Grammys and everyone associated. Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations. Next year I’ll send you a basket of confectionery.”

In a follow-up tweet, he clarified: “My tweet was not personal or about eligibility but was about the need for inclusion and the lack of transparency of the nomination process and the space that creates and allows favouritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process.”

The 2021 Grammys takes place in Los Angeles this Sunday. The ceremony will feature performances from artists including Cardi B, Billie Eilish, Brittany Howard, Haim, Megan Thee Stallion, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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