grammys president claims colorblindness, says there’s no race problem

Old white guy says there’s no problem with race at the top music gongs, after winner Adele led universal outcry at the snub of Beyoncé’s 'Lemonade.'

by Charlotte Gush
15 February 2017, 5:19pm

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, which runs the Grammy Awards, has given a remarkably tone-deaf interview about the much-criticized Beyoncé-snub and accusations of institutional racism that have followed the 2017 awards ceremony.

Confronted with the fact that no black artist has won the Album of the Year award since Herbie Hancock in 2008 — despite a run of groundbreaking albums that reached a climax with Beyoncé's Lemonade — Pitchfork asked Portnow whether the Grammys has a race problem. "No, I don't think there's a race problem at all," the Academy boss responded, citing how the awards are voted for by the 14,000 members of the Academy.

Claiming colorblindness on behalf of the voting members, Portnow said, "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. It's a matter of what you react to and what in your mind as a professional really rises to the highest level of excellence in any given year. And that is going to be very subjective."

Asked whether the diversity of the Recording Academy membership needs to be improved, as per the Oscars after the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, Portnow says, "Well, they may have had a problem. We don't have that kind of an issue in that same fashion." i-D couldn't locate diversity figures for the Recording Academy membership on the Grammys website, and an email to the communications team was returned as 'undeliverable.'

Portnow conceded in the interview that the Academy is "always working on increase diversity in membership, whether it's ethnicity, gender, genre, or age," explaining that, "In order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board." Elsewhere, he downplayed the awards ceremony no-shows by Kanye, Drake, and Frank Ocean, saying: "They're all different situations. Not everybody comes to the Grammys every year."

Read: Here's what went down at the Grammys on Sunday.


Text Charlotte Gush
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