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Grammys drop anonymous nominating committees after backlash

The Grammy Awards’ governing body voted on Friday to change its nomination process, eliminating a step that has recently been criticized – the use of anonymous expert panels to decide who conducts the final ballot in dozens of categories.

Each year, the Recording Academy brings together music professionals to serve on its nomination review committees for 61 of the 84 Grammys categories. They narrow the initial nominating choices of thousands of academy voters to determine the ballot, and their job is to protect the integrity of the awards process.

The committees started in 1989, but in recent years they have come under intense criticism from artists, music directors, and even Grammy insiders, as examples of a an inexplicable system plagued by conflicts of interest and mysterious agendas.

Ahead of this year’s Grammys in March, pop star the Weeknd – who had been excluded from nominations despite the success of his latest album, “After Hours” – announced that he would now boycott the show, and focused his attention. blame on the appointment process.

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

The Weeknd’s rebuke came after years of complaints from musicians, especially black artists in genres like hip-hop and R&B, many of whom were repeatedly praised in genre categories but stuck in them. four most prestigious awards: album, record and song of the year. , and best new artist. Among the more outspoken are Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West and Frank Ocean.

At this year’s ceremony, Beyoncé became the most awarded woman in Grammy history, with 28 wins. But of her career tally, only one award was in a major category, when she won the Song of the Year trophy in 2010 as one of the songwriters credited on “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) ”.

In a statement, Harvey Mason Jr., acting CEO of the Recording Academy, praised the academy’s board’s decision as part of a “year of unprecedented transformational change” within the Academy. institution.

“This is a new academy, one that is driven by action and that has doubled its commitment to meeting the needs of the music community,” added Mason. The proposal was discussed for more than a year and involved a special committee of academy members and leaders, the organization said.

The operation of nominating committees has long been a subject of intrigue in the music industry. The identity of the committee members is being kept a secret to protect these people from outside influences and attacks from fans, according to the academy.

But the process came under special scrutiny last year, when Deborah Dugan, former head of the academy, made a number of detailed charges as part of a legal complaint for his ouster from the academy. the organization.

According to his complaint, many committee members had conflicts of interest. In one example she gave, an artist who was shortlisted for the song of the year category was allowed to sit on that category’s committee and was also represented by a board member.

Last year, the academy instituted a rule that musicians on committees must sign disclosure forms to avoid disputes.

The decision to remove the committees was taken at a meeting of the academy’s board of directors. Although they are eliminated for the top four awards and all genre categories, the review boards will remain for 11 so-called craft categories, which cover awards for production, packaging, album notes and historical recordings. .

The council also decided to reduce to 10 from 15 the number of genre award categories that academy members can vote on, beyond the top four, and added two awards: the best global musical performance and the best urban music album, a Latin category.

The changes will take effect with the 64th annual Grammy Awards, to be held on January 31, 2022, which will cover music broadcast for a 13-month period from September 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.

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