The Grammys, Always Unpredictable, Face New Surprises

The academy has taken steps to address those issues, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to quell dissent. Last year, it eliminated its longtime use of anonymous screening committees to determine many nominees, which the Weeknd and others had called unfair. Yet just one day before this year’s slate was announced in November, the academy’s rules were changed to add two spots to the ballot in the top four categories, allowing stars like West, Taylor Swift and Lil Nas X to gain nominations. Days after, Drake withdrew from competition in the two rap categories in which he was nominated, though he gave no explanation.

Harvey Mason Jr., the academy’s chief executive, said in an interview that the academy was working to regain confidence among its members. “My hope,” he said, “is that we will earn the trust of all that were mistrustful.”

So far, the music world seems willing to give the academy the benefit of the doubt.

“The issue with institutions like the Grammys is that there is always a sense of nostalgia and tradition, so change is generally a little slower,” said Ghazi, the founder of the independent music company Empire. “But some of the conversations we have been having have been encouraging.”

Willie Stiggers, known as Prophet, an artist manager and co-chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, said he takes Grammy leaders at their word about a commitment to foster diversity within the organization. “The Recording Academy is a reflection of American society,” he said. “It’s going to take more than a year or two to unpack all that.”

One area in which the Grammys, and the music industry as a whole, have shown a stubborn lack of progress is in the advancement of female creators. This week, the latest edition of an annual study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that credits for women in pop have essentially remained flat over the past decade. Last year just 23.3 percent of the credited artists among the top 100 songs were women, while a Grammy-sponsored pledge from 2019 to hire more female producers and engineers has had almost no impact, the study found.

“Despite industry activism and advocacy, there has been little change for women on the popular charts since 2012,” Stacy L. Smith, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

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