'I don't think there's a race problem at all'; Grammys boss on Beyonce's loss
Singer Beyonce performs during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS)
America’s Recording Academy president Neil Portnow has denied Beyonce’s losing out on the top prizes at the Grammy Awards was due to racial bias.
The Formation singer, 35, won the Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video prizes at Sunday’s ceremony but lost to Adele in the prestigious Record, Song and Album of the Year categories.
With her unexpected loss meaning no female African-American artist has won in the Album of the Year category since Lauryn Hill in 1999, fans and musicians including Beyonce’s sister Solange and St. Vincent have accused Recording Academy voters of being biased against non-white artists.
Portnow has denied the claims however, saying that members of his organisation are experts who are unswayed by the race of an artist.
“No, I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” he told Pitchfork Media. “Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the Grammys, it’s not a corporate entity - it’s the 14,000 members of the Academy.
Grammys' Portnow: "You don’t get Chance the Rapper as Best New Artist if you have a membership that isn’t diverse" https://t.co/N3BCb7Mxpn— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) February 14, 2017
“They have to qualify in order to be members, which means they have to have recorded and released music, and so they are sort of the experts and the highest level of professionals in the industry.”
Even Adele was shocked to beat Beyonce, whose pioneering visual album Lemonade was hailed by critics as one of 2016’s defining cultural moments.
Defending the Academy’s members from the accusations, Portnow added, “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 it - is you almost put a blindfold on and you listen.”
The Recording Academy Chief cited Chance the Rapper’s win in the Best New Artist category as evidence voters honoured musicians of all backgrounds.
He also denied his organisation needed a membership shake-up like the one the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) chiefs embarked upon after no non-white actors were nominated at the 2016 Oscars.
“Well, they may have had a problem,” he explained. “We don’t have that kind of an issue in that same fashion.”