- The Weeknd accused the Grammys of corruption and a lack of transparency after he was snubbed with zero nominations this year.
- Reports suggested that talks between the singer and the Recording Academy regarding his performance at the show and the Super Bowl turned sour, but the president of the Academy denies that it had anything to do with his lack of nominations.
- Justin Bieber also slammed the Grammys for nominating him in pop categories when considered his album R&B. While genre is often a point of contention at the show, many think that his placement in pop is not unfounded.
- Nicki Minaj also brought up her 2012 Best New Artist loss, when Bon Iver beat her out for the trophy. She pointed to this moment as an example of the Grammy’s history of exclusion when it comes to women and artists of color, which the show promises it is working on.
The Weeknd’s Major Snubs
Major artists including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj slammed the Grammy Awards on Tuesday after the Recording Academy released their 2021 nominations.
Heading into the announcement, The Weeknd was a favorite to be nominated in major categories for his album “After Hours” and his song “Blinding Lights” after both received huge critical and commercial success. “Blinding Lights” has broken Billboard records and The Weeknd is slated to perform at the Super Bowl, making him the perfect candidate not just for nominations, but for wins as well. So, when he ended up with a whopping zero nominations, it was largely considered the biggest snub of the day.
Kid Cudi took to Twitter to say the singer was “robbed” and Elton John wrote on Instagram that The Weeknd should have won Song and Record of the Year. The Weeknd chimed in himself, writing that the Grammys “remain corrupt.”
“You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency,” he added.
The Grammys are no stranger to criticism of this kind and have long faced accusations of corruption for having “boys club” leadership and for excluding women and artists of color in nominations and performances. In this case, reports indicate that The Weeknd may have been referring to a specific situation regarding the potential of him performing at the show and how that may have clashed with his spot on the Super Bowl lineup.
“There were many conversations between the Grammys and the Weeknd team about his performance slated for the 2021 Grammys,” a source told Rolling Stone. “There was an ultimatum given resulting in a struggle over him also playing the Super Bowl that went on for some time and was eventually agreed upon that he would perform at both events.”
A source told TMZ that the Grammys were the party that handed out that ultimatum, essentially saying “it’s us or it’s the Super Bowl.” While they did reach a place where both could happen, the talks were allegedly testy, and come nomination day, The Weeknd was left empty-handed.
As for why talks of this nature could get heated, the Grammys is a concert just as much as it is an awards show. Their slate of performers is arguably more precious than their nominations because those performances are what draw in the show’s much sought after viewers. Why the Recording Academy may have viewed The Weeknd’s Super Bowl performance as a threat to this is unclear, but its Chair and Interim President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. denied that these discussions had anything to do with The Weeknd’s lack of nods.
“We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” he told Rolling Stone.
“We would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before [the Super Bowl]. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists,” he added. “To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”
For what it’s worth, The Weeknd and other industry insiders likely knew about the Super Bowl performance prior to the public announcement, though exactly when is of course unknown. But Mason Jr. maintains that the nominations were not impacted by this.
Still, The Weeknd took to Twitter again on Wednesday further expressing his frustrations by the ordeal.
“Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” he wrote.
He also is receiving a lot of support for his comments. His initial tweet about the situation has over 1 million likes as of Wednesday morning, and his Instagram post saying the same thing has over 2 million. Big names including Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Pharrell Williams are among those who liked his Instagram post.
Justin Bieber’s Genre Placement
Justin Bieber also called the show out, though not because he was not nominated, but instead because of what he was nominated for. Bieber landed a handful of nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album for “Changes” and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Yummy.” He took to Instagram to express that pop is not where he would have placed his work.
“To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry. I am very meticulous and intentional about my music,” he wrote. “With that being said I set out to make an R&B album. ‘Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.”
“For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!” he argued.
Though, his complaints were met with less support than The Weeknd’s. Reviews for “Changes” were mixed at best. While both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork identified it as an album persuaded by both pop and R&B, the latter outlet said “Changes” “has all the glow and eroticism of an airport terminal.”
When it comes down to what genre an artist is placed in, that choice is made by experts in each genre, which include producers, artists and more.
“Pop is a field that is often a point of contention or confusion: An artist who is popular, like Post Malone or Macklemore, may be rejected by a genre committee, like Rap, because the people on that committee consider them to be Pop artists,” Jem Aswad explained for Variety. “In that context, it is difficult to imagine the R&B committee considering Bieber’s lite take on R&B music to be suitable for the category.”
Aswad also said that genre confusion and overlap could have contributed to some of The Weeknd’s snubs. However, Bieber and this year’s nominations aside, genre placement, in general, has historically been a hot topic when it comes to the Grammys, specifically when it comes to how artists of color are treated and excluded. Many artists have spoken out about this, including Tyler the Creator, who chimed in on the subject after the 2020 show.
“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he said. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”
The “Urban” category has since been renamed to “Progressive R&B” but the conversation about these categories and what they mean is still very much ongoing. Regarding where Bieber fits into this narrative of issues with genre at the show, many thought a pop placement for him was fair and some even mocked him online for complaining. Mason Jr. also defended the genre and nomination process while speaking to Variety.
“The people [in the committees] are music professionals — they are excellent, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing, and there are a lot of artists,” he explained. “They critically [listen] to every song that comes across their desks.”
Nicki Minaj Talks Diversity
The Grammys are still not in the clear when it comes to their issues with representation and diversity. Rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted about her Best New Artist loss in 2012, which many feel showcases the issues the Recording Academy still has.
“Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation,” she wrote. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”
While you could argue whether or not Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, or any of the other nominees that year deserved the trophy, what can’t be argued is the show’s history with a lack of representation when it comes to celebrating women and people of color in music. This is something the Grammys claims to be working on. According to the L.A. Times, the Academy invited over 2,000 new voters this year that were 48% women and 37% from traditionally underrepresented communities.
“It’s really a new era for us and a time of transformative change,” Kelley Purcell, the Academy’s Senior Director of Member Outreach told the outlet. “It’s important for us to not only be reflective of what’s happening in the music industry but also to be a leader and to set a positive example for the music industry.”
For what it’s worth, some of the nominations this year do show progress, particularly with gender inclusion. For the first time ever, all the nominees in Best Rock Performance are female. Female-led acts also took up every nomination in Best Country Album, and dominated other country categories.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Variety) (Los Angeles Times)
Quinta Brunson Says This Country is “Not Okay” Following Requests For School Shooting Episode of “Abbott Elementary”
“I don’t want to sound mean, but I want people to understand the flaw in asking for something like this,” the writer and actress tweeted.
Quinta Brunson Calls Out “Wild” Requests
“Abbott Elementary” star and creator Quinta Brunson shut down requests for her to make an episode of the hit comedy series involving a school shooting.
“Wild how many people have asked for a school shooting episode of the show I write,” Brunson tweeted “People are that deeply removed from demanding more from the politicians they’ve elected and are instead demanding ‘entertainment.’ I can’t ask ‘are yall ok’ anymore because the answer is ‘no.’”
Her message came one day after 19 children and two teachers were killed during a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It marked the 27th school shooting of 2022, just 22 weeks into the year. The news of the massacre has rocked the nation, dominating the cultural conversation with calls for change.
Brunson believes those calls should fall on the ears of politicians, not television writers.
“Please use that energy to ask your elected official to get on Beto time and nothing less. I’m begging you,” Brunson said to fans, referring to Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D), who publicly confronted Gov. Greg Abbott (R ) about gun control legislation during a press conference the same day.
“I don’t want to sound mean, but I want people to understand the flaw in asking for something like this. We’re not okay,” she continued. “This country is rotting our brains. I’m sad about it.”
“Abbott Elementary” is a heartwarming sitcom following teachers at a public Philadelphia elementary school. Brunson plays Janine Teagues, a passionate and optimistic second-grade teacher. Despite a lack of resources and funding, Teagues and the rest of the staff are deeply committed to helping their students learn and succeed.
Brunson Shares Example of Suggestion
Brunson shared an example of “one of many” messages she received suggesting a school shooting episode for “Abbott Elementary.” The anonymous fan said a shooting should happen in the “eventual series finale” to “highlight the numerous ones in this nation.”
“Formulate an angle that would get our government to understand why laws need to pass,” the message continued. “I Think Abbott Elementary can affect change. I love the show.”
In response to Brunson’s thread, many were shocked that viewers would want to watch something so devastating happen on a largely uplifting show. Some followed Brunson in questioning why those fans were not directing their focus on politicians instead. Others were frustrated that these requests were being pointed at a joyful show depicting a predominantly Black school.
“I look to Abbott Elementary for a laugh, not a reminder about how black kids will never be safe,” one person wrote.
Having just finished its first season, “Abbott Elementary” is currently being credited as one of the few series saving the network sitcom. It raked in ABC’s highest ratings for a comedy since the series finale of “Modern Family” in 2020. It also became the first ABC sitcom premiere to quadruple its ratings since its initial airing.
“Abbott Elementary” is highly acclaimed by both critics and viewers and is considered a favorite for Emmy nominations this year. It is expected to return in the fall.
See what others are saying: (People) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Washington Post)
Ricky Gervais Criticized For Jokes About Trans People in New Netflix Special
The backlash comes less than a year after Dave Chappelle received similar criticism for his most recent stand-up special on Netflix.
Ricky Gervais Aims Jokes at Trans Community
Comedian Ricky Gervais is facing backlash over transphobic remarks he made in his latest Netflix stand-up special “SuperNature.”
Less than five minutes into the program, which was released on Tuesday, Gervais began aiming his jokes specifically at trans women.
“Oh, women. Not all women, I mean the old-fashioned ones,” Gervais said. “The old-fashioned women, the ones with wombs. Those fucking dinosaurs. I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and cocks!”
“They’re as good as gold, I love them,” he continued. “And now the old-fashioned ones say, ‘Oh, they want to use our toilets.’ ‘Why shouldn’t they use your toilets?’ ‘For ladies!’ ‘They are ladies, look at their pronouns. What about this person isn’t a lady?’ ‘Well, his penis.’ ‘Her penis, you fucking bigot!’ ‘What if he rapes me?’ ‘What if she rapes you, you fucking TERF whore?’”
He then bemoaned cancel culture and “woke comedy,” claiming the surest way for someone to get canceled is to tweet that “women don’t have penises.”
Gervais is no stranger to prompting controversy and outrage with his comedy. He likely anticipated that his remarks would cause a stir, especially given that he carved out time in his special to defend his jokes about trans people.
“Trans people just want to be treated equally,” he said. “I agree. That’s why I include them.”
Gervais noted he made jokes about a variety of groups and people, arguing that these remarks are not a window into his soul or beliefs. He said he would “take on any view” to make a joke as funny as possible, even if it does not reflect his own opinions.
“In real life, of course, I support trans rights,” he said. “I support all human rights, and trans rights are human rights. Live your best life. Use your preferred pronouns.”
Moments later, he joked that ladies should still “lose the cock.” The audience erupted in laughter.
Gervais Faces Backlash Online
Gervais was met with swift criticism within hours of “SuperNature” debuting on Netflix. Many said they would cancel their Netflix subscriptions because of the transphobia on the platform.
“Ricky Gervais has a new stand up show out on Netflix today,” one person tweeted. “[Five] minutes in and he’s making jokes about trans women attacking & raping people in public bathrooms. To him we exist only as a punchline, a threat, something less than human.”
“Ricky Gervais is a disgrace, he is going to cause hate crime and ultimately the death of Trans folk,” another person added.
Some further claimed that on top of it being offensive, it is lazy to take shots at marginalized communities in the name of comedy.
“This isn’t comedy. This is making cheap, nasty stereotypes out of a minority group,” one person wrote. “Please, if you’re Transgender or Support Trans lives, don’t watch this.”
Others accused Gervais of riding a wave of transphobia that has recently popped up among major comedians. Last year, Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer” sparked a wave of backlash over the comedian’s jokes about trans people. Netflix staffers staged a walkout in protest, demanding that the company do more to help LGBTQ+ creators and stand against anti-trans content.
Terra Feld, a former Netflix employee who helped organize the protests, encouraged subscribers to ditch Netflix over Gervais’ recent remarks.
Halsey Says Her Label Won’t Release Her New Song Unless They Can “Fake” A Viral TikTok Moment. Artists Say This Points to a Larger Issue in the Industry
Artist Sizzy Rocket said that record companies are forcing musicians “to fit into this box of virality” in hopes of landing a quick hit.
Halsey Calls Out Record Label
Over the last several years, TikTok has changed nearly every aspect of the music industry by sending viral songs to the top of the Billboard charts. Even major artists like Halsey say they cannot escape the pressure to go viral, sparking concern over how the app is influencing music.
On Sunday, Halsey, who uses she/they pronouns, posted a TikTok saying they had a new song they were eager to release, but their label said they “can’t release it unless they can fake a viral moment on TikTok.”
“Everything is marketing,” Halsey wrote, adding that this issue is impacting “basically every artist” right now.
Countless songs, including chart-toppers like “Old Town Road” and “drivers license” first soared to success on TikTok. Labels are eager to recreate that path in whatever ways they can.
Halsey’s label, Astralwerks-Capitol, gave a statement to Variety claiming its “belief in Halsey as a singular and important artist is total and unwavering.”
“We can’t wait for the world to hear their brilliant new music,” the statement said.
In response, Halsey noted that Astralwerks was the company that signed her before upstreaming her to Capitol. She said this statement in particular “came from the company who believed in me from the jump” and not the company she is “wrestling with now.”
Artists Speak Out
Nearly eight million views later, Halsey’s TikTok prompted fans and people working in the music industry to criticize the practice of forcing songs to go viral.
“Halsey has sold over 100 million records and she is having to put up with this nonsense?” musician Rebecca Ferguson tweeted. “Artists and creatives should be ‘free.’”
“halsey’s tik tok only scratches the surface of what’s happening in music right now,” singer and songwriter Sizzy Rocket added.
While speaking to Rogue Rocket, Sizzy Rocket said that labels and producers don’t understand that making a song and going viral on TikTok are two different art forms. The pressure of going viral often puts artists in positions where they feel their creative integrity could be compromised.
“Artists like myself and Halsey, who require a little bit more time and space to craft our messages, are sort of being forced to fit into this box of virality and so, it’s a big problem,” Sizzy Rocket said.
“As an artist, I can’t just do something to go viral.”
Sizzy Rocket said that labels have approached her to write songs for their more viral artists, oftentimes offering no pay for the session.
“It’s taken me four albums, I just released my fourth album, and ten years to develop this melodic and lyrical style,” she explained. “You know I have a thing, I have a je ne sais quoi, and so to ask me to just give that to a brand new artist who just went viral overnight is truly offensive.”
Smaller Artists Face Bigger Issues
As Halsey’s call-out TikTok has spread online, the “Closer” singer denied that the video was a promotional stunt of its own, arguing she is “way too established to stir something like this up for no reason or resort to this as a marketing tactic.”
But whether it be intentionally or inadvertently, Halsey has drummed up attention for their new music. Smaller artists don’t have the luxury of being able to instantly reach the masses. Sizzy Rocket said that up and comers like herself have to struggle more to get the spotlight, while mainstream artists have a larger fanbase to fall back on.
“I feel like smaller artists are more affected because we’re getting buried, right?” she said. “There’s so much content, there are so many people trying to go viral.”
“I feel like larger artists, because they have a more established and bigger audience, they sort of have access to that attention already,” Sizzy Rocket continued. “But for smaller artists, we sort of have to like, dig, dig through the pile of everyone else sort of grabbing for that trend.”
While Sizzy Rocket does not consider herself a viral artist, she said she did at one point try to go viral on TikTok. After filming the video, she felt it would be of no benefit.
“I just couldn’t post it because I didn’t understand how that sort of cheap grab for attention would help me deliver the message of my music,” she said.
With that said, Sizzy Rocket said she does not blame any TikTok artists who went viral on their own. Instead, she pointed the finger at labels who are trying to drive inorganic viral success while lacking an understanding of how art and social media interact with one another.
“I don’t want to place any blame on the actual TikTok artists who did go viral. I feel like they deserve to make their art as well,” she said. “It’s more about the label prioritizing the platform over the art itself.”
Other artists like Zara Larsson and Florence Welch have bemoaned the pressures they face from their record companies to be active on TikTok. Many agree that the expectations labels have in this arena are unfair to artists.
“labels all want a dove cameron ‘boyfriend’ moment (which i’d argue was rather organic) but how sustainable is that kind of traction as it’s v fleeting + how can artists even replicate that kind of virality,” culture writer Zoya Raza-Sheikh asked on Twitter.
For Halsey, it remains unclear when their new song will see the light of day. In a tweet, they claimed their label was impressed by their TikTok’s traction, but only said “we’ll see” when asked if the song could be released.