Music News: Grammys ratings plunge as critics say Recording Academy is losing touch

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Neil Portnow, head of the Recording Academy, at the Grammys.
Neil Portnow, head of the Recording Academy, speaks at the Grammys on Jan. 28, 2018. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

It's a little late for Festivus, but on Monday it seemed like just about everyone had some grievances to air in the wake of Sunday night's Grammys ceremony, which hit a nine-year viewership low. Awards shows ratings have generally been declining in recent years, but the Grammys had been holding relatively steady — until this year, when viewership plunged by 24%.

Some of that decline is attributable to rapid changes in media generally, but it also seemed that with the exception of praise for particular performances (such as Kendrick Lamar’s widely-praised opening medley), most observers gave this year's Grammys a thumbs down.

A sampling of Monday headlines in the music press include: "Pop keeps changing. And the Grammys turn a deaf ear, again" (New York Times); "What do the Grammys have against women?" (Rolling Stone); "Insanity is watching the Grammys every year and expecting something different to happen" (Stereogum); and "The 2018 Grammys: This s---hole again" (Pitchfork).

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) took to Twitter for a series of critical posts that included the observation, "Looks like Grammies are still something serious musicians should not take seriously! Absolutely NO offense to Mr Mars, but you absolutely have to be s---ting me."

Acclaimed hip-hop artists including Lamar (who swept the hip-hop awards) and this year's most nominated artist, JAY-Z, were shut out of wins in the major categories. Many viewers were also fuming that Best New Artist Alessia Cara was the only woman to collect a Grammy during the televised ceremony. Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow didn't help matters when he told Variety that female artists just need to "step up" if they want to be welcomed by the recording industry. (USA Today)

Later, Portnow issued a statement saying that the words "step up," "when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it. I regret that I wasn't as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought." (Billboard)

Lorde, who reportedly declined to perform after being offered only a collaboration, not a solo performance (unlike her fellow Best Album nominees, all of whom were male), fired off a Monday tweet that seemed to allude to the controversy. (NME) She'll be at the Xcel Energy Center on March 23, for those who want to take her up on this.

Meanwhile, Cara was dealing with blowback from viewers who thought she was a dud of a Best New Artist pick, whether because they simply preferred a different nominee or because Cara's not precisely a "new artist," having released her debut album over two years ago. In a long Instagram post, Cara wrote that "I am not going to be upset about something I've wanted since I was kid, not to mention have worked really hard for." She added, "I'm aware that my music wasn't released yesterday." (Pitchfork)

to address the apparent backlash regarding winning something I had no control over: I didn’t log onto grammy.com and submit myself. that’s not how it works. I didn’t ask to be submitted either because there are other artists that deserve the acknowledgment. but I was nominated and won and I am not going to be upset about something I’ve wanted since I was a kid, not to mention have worked really hard for. I meant everything I said about everyone deserving the same shot. there is a big issue in the industry that perpetuates the idea that an artist’s talent and hard work should take a back seat to popularity and numbers. and I’m aware that my music wasn’t released yesterday, I’m aware that, yes, my music has become fairly popular in the last year. but I’m trying very hard to use the platform I’ve been given to talk about these things and bring light to issues that aren’t fair, all while trying to make the most of the weird, amazing success I’ve been lucky enough to have. I will not let everything I’ve worked for be diminished by people taking offence to my accomplishments and feeling the need to tell me how much I suck. here’s something fun! I’ve been thinking I suck since I was old enough to know what sucking meant. I’ve beat u to it. And that’s why this means a lot to me. despite my 183625 insecurities, I’ve been shown that what I’ve created is worth something and that people actually give a shit. all of the years feeling like I wasn’t good at anything or that I was naive for dreaming about something improbable have paid off in a way that I have yet to process. I know it sounds cheesy and dumb but it’s the honest truth. thanks to everyone who’s shown me kindness and support along the way. I’ll stop talking now.

A post shared by ALESSIA CARA (@alessiasmusic) on

In any given year, people are going to point out musicians we lost who weren't reflected in the memorial montage. This year, exclusions included Minnesota's own Grant Hart; as well as Krautrock pioneer Holger Czukay (Can); and Mark E. Smith of the Fall. (Pitchfork)

Perhaps the simplest complaint came from Kelly Clarkson, who called host James Corden out for not keeping his (facetious) promise to give every losing nominee a puppy. (Billboard)

But wait! There's one more piece of bummer news to eke out of the post-Grammys furor. Despite winning a Grammy (Best Traditional R&B Performance) and delivering a memorable performance during the televised ceremony, Donald Glover says he's still planning to retire his Childish Gambino musical project.

"I'm really appreciative of this [award] and I'm making another project right now, just, you know, to make," Glover told Variety. "But I like endings and I think they're important to progress. I think like, if a lot of things had death clauses in them, we wouldn't have a lot of problems in the world, to be honest. So I think endings are good because they force things to get better."

One non-Grammys piece of news...and even this one has a Grammys angle, sorry

Back at the 2011 Grammys, Jennifer Hudson performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Now, Hudson has been tapped to play the Queen of Soul in an upcoming biopic. Clive Davis, who signed Franklin to Arista Records in 1980, announced the casting at a pre-Grammys party. Davis said the movie will be filmed next year, and that Hudson was "anointed by Aretha herself to play her." (Rolling Stone)


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