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When the nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards were announced Tuesday morning, the Weeknd, who was widely predicted to be the leading nominee, was shut out entirely, in one of the most shocking snubs in Grammy history. Fans and industry pundits alike were baffled, but by the afternoon, TMZ had seemingly shed some light on the situation. TMZ claimed that negotiations over whether the Weeknd could perform at both the Jan. 31 Grammy ceremony and on the Super Bowl LV halftime show a week later had grown “testy,” with the Recording Academy allegedly issuing an “ultimatum” demanding that the pop star choose between the two events.
Sources told Variety a similar account about this tense back-and-forth, though both TMZ and Variety reported that the Weeknd’s camp and the Academy had eventually come to some sort of agreement that would allow for both performances. However, while Variety assumed that “the nominating committees legitimately, by the Grammys’ standards, chose other releases over [the Weeknd’s] in their categories,” TMZ speculated that “hammering out a deal to do both [broadcasts] could've cost [the Weeknd] Grammy nominations.”
On Tuesday evening, the Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) took to Twitter to angrily address his Grammy snub, vaguely posting, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.” It wasn’t clear whether Tesfaye was implying that he believed his shutout had been a retaliatory move by the Recording Academy or that he was simply complaining about the awards’ notoriously opaque nominations process in general. Representatives for both the Weeknd and the Grammys did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s requests for comment, but the Recording Academy’s interim CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., did address the Weeknd’s accusation of corruption and TMZ’s story in a written statement to Variety. “To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before the Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced [on Nov. 12], so in no way could it have affected the nomination process. All Grammy nominees are recognized by the voting body for their excellence and we congratulate them all,” Mason wrote.
The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency...
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) November 25, 2020
Mason also stated: “We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration. We were thrilled when we found out he would be performing at the upcoming Super Bowl and we would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists. But as the only peer-voted music award, we will continue to recognize and celebrate excellence in music while shining a light on the many amazing artists that make up our global community.”
Earlier this year, the Grammys were accused of corruption when former Recording Academy CEO and self-described “whistleblower” Deborah Dugan claimed that there was indeed a link between the nominations process and artist bookings for the awards telecast. In a 44-page discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan — who was ousted five months after she joined the organization, and just 10 days before the 62nd annual Grammy Awards ceremony — alleged that the Grammy board “manipulates the nominations process to ensure that certain songs or albums are nominated when the producer of the Grammys wants a particular song performed during the show.” In March, Dugan also filed court papers alleging that Ken Ehrlich, who executive-produced the awards show from 1980 through 2020, and Mason had used their power to sway the voting. “Specifically, Mr. Ehrlich attempted to press the Academy into nominating a song by a particular superstar in order to increase his ability to convince the superstar to perform at the Grammys,” that document stated. Dugan also made claims of various irregularities and conflicts of interests in the nominating process.
The 63rd annual Grammy Awards will take place on Jan. 31, 2021. The leading nominee is Beyoncé, with a total of nine nods, followed by Taylor Swift, Roddy Ricch, and Dua Lipa with six each. No performers or other details of the ceremony have yet to be confirmed.
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