- 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)
Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19
- Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
- The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
- “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
Chappelle Tests Positive
Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.
“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.
“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.
Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle
Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.
Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.
“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.