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NEAR TRUTHS:
SCANDAL FATIGUE

IT’S SHOWTIME: Grammy-gate was shaping up to be the kind of scandal that brings down institutions and creates serious reform—until it wasn’t. With mass-media pickup of bombshell allegations about sexual harassment and a rape cover-up, voting irregularities and financial waste, mere days before the Grammy telecast, speculation abounded that the Recording Academy’s old guard was finished. It was possible the entire institution could be brought down.

The speech by Sean “Diddy” Combs at the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala electrified the moment—“You’ve got 365 days to get this shit together,” he declared to Team Grammy. “We need transparency. We need diversity… [The Academy is] a nonprofit organization that’s supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community… We just need to get it right.”

Yet by the time the pre-Grammy events reached their fever pitch, scandal fatigue seemed to set in. Did Deborah Dugan’s lack of a support base among the industry’s most influential men and women affect the outcome? Did interim chief Harvey Mason Jr.’s promises of incremental change help preserve the status quo? Whatever the case, biz peeps mostly seemed ready to move on after a mortifying week of shitty press that took some shine off what should’ve been a great moment for their artists. Even before the Kobe tragedy completely refocused the picture, it was beginning to seem likely that this scandal would largely be swept under the rug, as has been the historical trend with Grammy scandals.

With L.A. and all sports fans in deep mourning, Staples Center wasn’t going to be a place for tirades about institutional sexism and white privilege on Music’s Biggest Night, however warranted. Fortunately, the show largely found a way to address its audience’s pain, and the result—despite some flaws—was one of the most emotional Grammy shows ever. Host Alicia Keys was indispensable and surpassed expectations with the highest level of hosting difficulty; using every arrow in her quiver as singer, musician and master of ceremonies, she both confronted the sober circumstances of the moment and helped the audience transcend them. Some biz folk who sat in the audience for the show complained, more so than those who watched it at home; most agree, though, that the first two hours were much stronger than the problematic third.

CLEAN SWEEP: It was also fortunate that Billie Eilish and FINNEAS were anointed; Billie’s sweep of the top categories fit the narrative of evolution both in terms of recognizing female artists and staying in step with the current (young) marketplace. Billie was just one of many women and artists of color who gave the show its pathos and gravitas. Demi, Lizzo, Tyler, Camila, H.E.R. and Gary Clark Jr., among others, turned in intense performances. Meanwhile, Lil Nas X and Ariana Grande brought some much-needed lightness to the proceedings.

It’s clear that Eilish’s ubiquity will continue, as she ticks up at streaming, sales (9m in total activity worldwide) and radio and becomes a household name in those remaining households that didn’t know her before. It bears repeating that John Janick, Steve Berman, Justin Lubliner, Danny Rukasin, Brandon Goodman, Sara Bollwinkel, Tom Windish and teams have executed the ultimate artist-development story; their patience and faith over many years has borne abundant fruit. And Interscope becomes the first label in five years to take home every trophy in the Big 4—and Eilish the youngest artist, first female and only artist since 1981 to sweep. We also note that she is Interscope’s first-ever Best New Artist winner.

Billie’s trophy triumph coincides with another Interscope benchmark, as the label surges to #1 in the marketshare race. With Eilish, Eminem, DaBaby, Trevor Daniel, Mustard, blackbear, Juice WRLD and more dominating the streaming charts and a new Gaga set said to be on the way, look for House Janick to consolidate its gains as the year unfolds. Are they unstoppable? Will they go wire to wire?

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