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NOM DE GUERRE: I.B. BAD ON THE GRAMMYS

The Grammy nominations unquestionably reflected the need for greater diversity in terms of gender and people of color being amply represented in the top-tier nominations. Particularly in this Year of the Woman, several female artists who had big years were rightly rewarded, such as multimedia giant Lady Gaga, as well as Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves and others who were very much part of the conversation. There was also a strong representation of hip-hop and R&B in the marquee categories, reflecting the dominant musical forms in the current marketplace.

Yet many insiders feel that the noms lacked balance, despite these important inclusions. Some acts, however worthy, that had a minor impact got major love with multiple noms. Meanwhile, again, in this Year of the Woman, the Grammys snubbed three of the biggest female artists in the universe. Taylor Swift and her reputation were completely, pointedly ignored in the Big Three categories.

You say Taylor got short shrift because Grammy folks didn’t feel she’d delivered her best work? Then explain Ariana Grande, who was excluded from the marquee categories as well, despite having had an incredible year in terms of marketplace impact, creative development and philanthropic endeavor—including spearheading a hugely uplifting event after the Manchester terror attack. She was also named the Bible’s Woman of the Year. By any conceivable metric, it was Ariana’s year, yet she was crowded out of the Big Three.

Now consider Exhibit C, which stands for Camila Cabello. She had, in “Havana,” the biggest fucking song in the solar system, and another #1 single besides. Her album was widely acclaimed, and, as her solo bow, represented an undeniable artistic leap. She got no marquee noms.

Meanwhile, the Beyoncé-Ed Sheeran duet “Perfect,” a #1 smash, got exactly nada. Recognizing this inescapably huge song would’ve had myriad benefits for Grammy: a make-good with not one but two superstars who were previously hosed; a true Grammy moment; and a potential ratings bump.

Once again, the Grammys’ tangle of agendas and utter lack of transparency has left a bad taste in the mouths of many folks in the biz, not to mention pop culture at large. The fact remains that if the Secret Committee members want something on the ballot, it’s in. A great many of the topline choices (notably several that got no love in genre categories) make the Academy’s gatekeepers look like elitists.

When Ed Sheeran got the shaft last year, the rap was that Grammy didn’t want another chart-topping white Brit walking away with all the cake—as Sam Smith and Adele had previously. But what possible excuse could they have for keeping Ariana out of the top categories, and thus ensuring she’ll be off the Grammy show? She doesn’t need the Grammys, nor do Taylor or Camila. Justin Timberlake is already boycotting the Grammys; Sheeran boycotted last year and it’s unclear whether he will again; Taylor’s even money. What other stars might be out of reach for the telecast as a result of top-tier snubs?

The fact is that the secret committee’s choices and the ensuing boycotts have crippled the production of the TV show and impacted the ratings. The buzz is that co-producer Ben Winston—who came aboard for the last two years just to handle the James Corden segments and will work with Ken Ehrlich on the next show without Corden (who’ll be busy filming Cats in the U.K.)—is being considered as Ehrlich’s possible replacement in a few years. (CBS has approval of the show’s producer and a big say in the rest of the broadcast.) So his role this year could be a trial run for the big job. The show’s key operatives agree that a host isn’t crucial, and the next Grammys may not have one. The larger issue, which Ehrlich has been the middle of for quite a few years, is the pressure from the Grammy TV committee, with its myriad agendas—a cacophonous counterpoint to the ratings pressure exerted by the network. Everyone involved is hoping for a less overtly political show, and unlike last year, a preponderance of female performers will be matched by a female-heavy slate of top nominees. Can the program’s ratings withstand a lack of major stars?

It’s clear that these nomination choices aren’t reflective of any voting, but rather the gatekeepers deciding who’s in and who’s out. There’s a good chance that things will worsen after Neil Portnow exits, since these same people will select his replacement.

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