The Grammy Awards does not have a “race problem”, according to President of the Recording Academy Neil Portnow.
The annual ceremony has recently been criticized by a number of artists, including Frank Ocean and Solange Knowles, for a perceived lack of diversity – but Neil has rubbished their suggestions, insisting the Academy is blindfolded to the issue of race. Responding to accusations of racial bias, he said: “I don’t think there’s a race problem at all … It’s always hard to create objectivity out of something that’s inherently subjective, which is what art and music is about. We do the best we can.”
The discussion was brought into sharp focus after Adele’s ’25’ beat Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ to the Album of the Year crown, only for the London-born singer to subsequently admit that the 35-year-old beauty was more deserving of the accolade.
However, Neil has claimed that factors like race are never considered when it comes to handing out the awards. He told Pitchfork: “We don’t, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity. When you go to vote on a piece of music – at least the way that I approach is – is you almost put a blindfold on and you listen.”
Neil also said he retained confidence in the voting process, despite criticism from a number of high-profile artists. He said: “We stand 100 percent behind the process: It’s a democratic vote by the majority. So somebody could either receive or not receive a Grammy based on one vote. It could be that tight.”
Despite this, Neil admitted efforts are being made to ensure there is greater diversity among the Academy. He shared: “We are always working on increase diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age. In order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board.”