Are the Grammys Rigged? A New Complaint From the Former CEO of the Recording Academy Alleges So

Illustration for article titled Are the Grammys Rigged? A New Complaint From the Former CEO of the Recording Academy Alleges So
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“Music’s Biggest Night” has some major mess to clean up backstage.

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards will kick off next Sunday, but the lead up to the awards show has been all about the folks behind the scenes; namely, recently ousted CEO Deborah Dugan and the rest of the leadership of the Recording Academy.


Dugan was tapped to fill the CEO role after former head Neil Portnow left amid controversy around sexist comments about women recording artists. On Tuesday, she filed a complaint claiming the Academy essentially orchestrated a coup after she called out the organization for its lack of diversity—a concern that isn’t exactly new for the majority white, male body. (According to Slate, only 21 percent of the Academy’s voting members were women, and only 28 percent were people of color.)

She also made serious allegations about sexual misconduct and abuse, accusing Recording Academy general counsel Joel Katz of harassing her, and former CEO Portnow of raping a “foreign recording artist (and member of the Academy) after a concert she gave at Carnegie Hall.” The Academy’s interest in containing the story was the “real reason” Portnow’s contract wasn’t renewed, Dugan claims, though the Academy still advised her to hire Portnow as a consultant on a $750,000 annual salary.

Less extreme, but still concerning, are accusations Dugan puts forward about self-dealing when it comes to the Grammys. The Recording Academy has long been accused of being out of touch, but if you’ve been suspected that the Grammys are, in fact, rigged, Dugan is here to say, you’re goddamned right.

This is how the Grammys are supposed to work: The Academy’s full membership casts their choices for the nominations, then committees cull through the top 20 nominees in each category, cutting the final field down to five to eight nominees.

In practice, shit plays out differently. From Slate (emphasis mine):

Dugan alleges that the members of those committees manipulate the nominations, pushing forward artists they work with regardless of their vote total, and even adding nominees who didn’t make the top twenty. Dugan specifically says that 30 of this year’s nominees were added by the committees despite not making the cut in Academy voting. She also says that one of this year’s nominees for Song of the Year was voted 18th in the category, but was able to parlay that into a nomination because he or she personally served on the Song of the Year nominating committee, despite being a contender.


Scandal! Who could it be? No one is naming names at this point (and it’s unclear if the person is a singer or songwriter), but here’s a quick review of Song of the Year category: “Always Remember Us This Way,” performed by Lady Gaga, “Bad Guy,” performed by Billie Eilish, “Bring My Flowers Now,” performed by Tanya Tucker, “Hard Place,” performed by H.E.R., “Lover,” performed by Taylor Swift, “Norman Fucking Rockwell!,” performed by Lana Del Rey, “Someone You Loved,” performed by Lewis Capaldi, and “Truth Hurts,” performed by Lizzo.

So who’s lucky No. 18? I’m willing to bet it ain’t Lizzo.

Staff writer, The Root.


The Kinja Assassin

My theory on who pushed to get their own track in the Song Of The Year category is either Gaga or Taylor Swift. I figure it would have to be a major player with a lot of pull in the industry who could intimidate the other people in the committee with an obvious bullshit move like this. Pushing your own song feels like a very corporate entitled proposition with very Swiftian overtones, but maybe I’m wrong.