The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was one of the biggest songs of 2020. It was seemingly inescapable, even as any activity where you’d be forced to listen to the radio diminished drastically thanks to the pandemic. In fact, the song became the first ever to spend an entire year on the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. So it was a huge surprise when The Weeknd wasn’t announced as a Grammy nominee in November. The singer tweeted his disapproval of this snub at the time, writing, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency...” He also wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post, “Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” On Thursday, in a statement given to The New York Times, The Weeknd declared a boycott against the Grammys, saying “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
Harvey Mason Jr., who is The Recording Academy’s interim chief executive, gave a response to The Weeknd’s statement in the same article, noting that the academy is “disappointed when anyone is upset, but I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”
As Variety’s Jem Aswad explains, this head-scratching snub could be attributed to “secret committees,” as The Weeknd alleged in his tweet: “The work of the committees was singled out in a blockbuster legal complaint by Deborah Dugan, who was ousted as president/CEO of the Recording Academy after just eight months, as a symbol of longstanding corruption within the Grammy bureaucracy.” Variety previously reported that Dugan alleged the Grammys board used these secret committees to push for nominees whom they had a good relationship with, sidelining other artists worthy of a nom. Much like most awards voting bodies that tend to be problematic in their selection of nominees (looking at you, Golden Globes), the Recording Academy has a long history of artists of color being overlooked. Lest we forget when Frank Ocean called out the academy on Tumblr, and when Adele gave an awkward speech while winning Best Album, saying Beyoncé should’ve won instead of her and pulling a Mean Girls by breaking her Grammy in two.
While we all know that the Grammys aren’t a proper representation of who created the best music, The Weeknd’s frustrations are understandable. As the Golden Globes and other awards ceremonies are making a bigger effort to change their nomination system after being repeatedly called out, we wait to see if the Grammys evolve, too.