By Jem Aswad,
The Weeknd’s absence from all Grammy nominations in a year that he dominated the music scene and the charts has astonished nearly all observers, and the artist himself has leveled an accusation of corruption against the Recording Academy.
“The Grammys remain corrupt,” he wrote on social media. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
He is referencing the process by which nominations are chosen, which is secret and the identities of the people on the committees that select the nominees are not publicly revealed.
The Weeknd’s absence from the Grammy nominations is the biggest snub in recent memory, and one that is difficult to explain beyond the fact that, contrary to the opinions of millions of fans and hundreds of critics, the 20-odd-member nominating committees did not feel his “After Hours” album or its many singles were one of the eight Best Albums, Songs or Records of the Year, or the five best in genre categories.
In a related development, a source close to the situation tells Variety that the Grammys and The Weeknd’s team were at odds over him playing both the January 31 Grammy ceremony and the Super Bowl halftime show, which occurs a week later. While the negotiations grew prolonged and contentious, eventually it was agreed that he would play both events — only for the situation to become moot once the nominations were announced and he was shockingly shut out.
While some suspected initially that the nomination shutout was some form of retribution over the tense negotiations — which would be a vengeful move, considering that both sides had come to terms — a more likely scenario is that the nominating committees legitimately, by the Grammys’ standards, chose other releases over his in their categories.
Reps for The Weeknd and the Recording Academy did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.
The Grammy nominations are multi-step process in which committees, which include veteran music professionals, make their decisions based on a shortlist handed down from a screening committee that considers thousands of submissions. Variety spoke with Recording Academy interim president/CEO Harvey Mason, jr. about the matter on Monday, and while he exerts no control over the nominations, he did speak generally on the process.
“I don’t think [the Weeknd’s omission calls the nominations] process into question, honestly,” he said. “The process is there so we can continue to monitor excellence. I was in the ‘core room’ this year [which decides the main categories] and I observed, and the people in it are music professionals, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing and there are a lot of artists. And they were critically listening to every song that came across their desks — or virtual desks — so I don’t think it shows a flaw in the process. It’s a long, arduous process and people take pride in it. The people in that room care: there are no agendas in there, there’s no ‘let’s snub this person’ or that person. It’s about, ‘Let’s try and find excellence.’”
Regarding The Weeknd’s shutout in the genre categories, a likely possibility is one that Variety nodded to in an article earlier this year: whether The Weeknd is considered a pop or R&B act. While that factor would have played little role in him being left off of the three main categories for which he was eligible (Album, Song and Record of the Year), it’s entirely possible that the screening committees, which determine which releases are appropriate for their respective categories, may have decided that he didn’t fit their categories: In other words, the Pop committee may have considered him R&B and the R&B committee considered him Pop.
While the Grammys have been accused in the past of refusing to allow an artist to perform because they declined to play the song the show’s producers requested — most prominently with Lorde in 2018 — this is the most egregious, if not the first, time such speculation has been made in connection with the nominations.