Grammy President Says ‘Women Need to Step Up’ After Male Nominees Dominate Awards
An industry awards show is nothing if not a snapshot of its time — and this year's Grammy Awards ceremony took place in the midst of a groundswell of discussion about gender equality and sexual misconduct, much of which has rocked the entertainment industry with a series of high-profile scandals.
Yet while that dialogue wasn't necessarily ignored during the 60th annual Grammys ceremony last night, the list of winners was decidedly male — and the explanation offered by Neil Portnow, president of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, has left some deeply dissatisfied.
"It has to begin with ... women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls," Portnow told Variety when reached for comment about the 2018 winners — and the attendant backlash, which included the Twitter hashtag #GrammysSoMale. As Portnow went on to argue, music needs women "who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level."
While it's hard to argue with the idea that more women in all levels of power of the entertainment industry would result in a more level playing field for artists of all genders, it might have been prudent for Portnow to rephrase portions of his response — particularly when he said that the women in question need to "step up."
"I think they would be welcome," he added. "I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists."
Although the type of initiative that Portnow describes is, on one hand, just the type of mindful outreach that could lead to lasting parity, his comments also seem to suggest that the type of female artist, producer, engineer or executive the industry really needs just hasn't materialized yet — which would be news to all of this year's female nominees in the major Grammy categories, most of whom went home empty-handed.
The gender divide was also reflected in the night's performers. Lorde was the only female nominee for Album of the Year — and the only nominee who didn't perform, following rumors she'd rejected an offer to play as part of a group tribute to Tom Petty instead of having her own solo slot. Show producer Ken Ehrlich said it was a matter of space, insisting, "She had a great album, but there’s no way we can deal with everybody. Maybe people get left out who shouldn’t, but we do the best we can to make sure it’s a fair and balanced show."
"It’s always a hard thing to see things not go somebody’s way," mused Chris Stapleton, who took home this year's award for Best Country Album. "And equality is something we have to address on a lot of levels. I can’t really speak to how voters voted and what happened there, but there is a lot of great music being made by a lot of great women. That is the only thing I know and the awards don’t diminish the art in any way."