We are coming up on Thanksgiving weekend and the streets are buzzing about another Saturday/Sunday namesake—The Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye).
The Grammys nominations are always the talk of the town when they’re announced and usually, the snubs get most of the attention. This year, that attention went primarily to The Weeknd.
The “Heartless” artist received exactly zero nominations for the 2021 ceremony, which surprised fans and industry folks alike, given his successful awards run so far.
Following the Grammy nominations announcement, The Weeknd took to Twitter to express just how he felt about it.
“The Grammys remain corrupt,” he tweeted. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
Sources familiar with the situation tell us The Weeknd’s team was in talks for weeks with Grammy brass, who issued the ultimatum—us or Super Bowl LV. We’re told both sides eventually came to an agreement where Abel could do both, but not without negotiations getting very testy.
Our sources say there’s growing suspicion Abel’s decision to perform at this year’s Super Bowl cost him Grammy noms because the bitter back-and-forth talks pissed off Grammy honchos.
Wow. Right on time, though, the Recording Academy Chair and interim president and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. stepped in to clear up any misconceptions.
“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated,” Mason said in a statement issued to Billboard. “I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent…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…To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”
In fact, Mason didn’t stop at the statement. He actually sat down for a Q&A with Billboard to expand on his statement. In response to The Weeknd using the word “corrupt” to describe the Grammys and Recording Academy, Mason said:
It saddened me. I try to empathize with where that came from, but it was difficult to hear. I can understand he’s disappointed [at being shut out]. Everybody at the academy understands that he’s disappointed. I was personally surprised that he was not nominated.
Mason also confirmed that while he has not had a conversation with The Weeknd directly, he did speak with his representatives and label, a conversation which he chose to keep private.
As for whether or not The Weeknd will still perform at the ceremony taking place on Jan. 31, 2021?
“The Weeknd has always been someone that the Academy has respected,” Mason noted. “I think a decision of that magnitude as far as the show would be made by Ben Winston. We’ve had him on the show [twice] in the past, and he’s always done incredible performances for us.”
The Weeknd hasn’t gone into detail himself so we’re still unclear whether the “corrupt” comment had anything to do with a reported ultimatum from The Grammys or if it’s something else entirely. As for the “transparency” comment, Billboard did offer some additional insight into what it could possibly refer to. Though The Weeknd’s team entered After Hours into the Best Progressive R&B Album category, the Academy moved it to Best Pop Vocal Album after a screening process.
Billboard further writes:
The Recording Academy declined to say whether “Blinding Lights” was among the top 20 vote-getters from rank-and-file voting members in the record and/or song of the year categories, or whether The Weeknd’s album After Hours was among the top 20 vote-getters in album of the year. If they were, those entries would have been presented to the Nominations Review Committee. If they weren’t, they would not have been (per an Academy explanation of their process). The Academy has never divulged who is on the initial lists from which the committee picks the final nominees, despite calls for greater transparency.
I have a feeling this drama won’t be going away anytime soon, though. The Root has reached out to The Weeknd’s team for comment on this matter, including Mason’s statement and subsequent interview.