A REAL SHOT IN THE ARM: Vaccinations are underway at an brisk pace and a return to something resembling normalcy is on the horizon—and possibly a gradual resumption of touring by late summer. The passage of the Biden/Harris American Rescue Plan is a momentous achievement and a big ray of hope.

Meanwhile, the recorded-music biz continues to hum, with much chatter about an impressive slate of superstar releases thought to be coming down the pike to goose the numbers, including albums from Adele, Rihanna (maybe), Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Lil Nas X, J. Cole, Summer Walker, SZA and Kendrick Lamar.

We find ourselves reflecting, at this moment, that the whole unprecedented, terrifying, tragic, bewildering, frustrating, tedious and deeply absurd phenomenon known as the pandemic took over our lives almost exactly one year ago. While fretting about the health of loved ones and industry colleagues alike, we were forced to navigate our professional and personal lives virtually.

It bears repeating that the digital infrastructure built over the early years of the 21st century has made it possible for the recorded-music side to not only survive but thrive. Pandemic isolation fueled streaming growth, while online tools showed we didn’t need offices to function effectively as companies.

That hardly makes up for the enormous losses —in lives and livelihoods—for which this plague is responsible. Even so, it testifies to the ingenuity and resilience that have gotten us through this year and will serve us well henceforth. But if we never have another Zoom meeting after all this, it’ll be too fucking soon.

TROPHY HUNTING: The Grammys are upon us, following another year of controversy surrounding the nominations and—especially—the lack of transparency in the process. Another year of alleged backroom deals, influence peddling and horse-trading by the same cast of characters.

Four years of Trump gave us a granular view of a corrupt political class dedicated to self-dealing, secrecy and manipulating the system to retain power. To see similar mechanisms at work in this enclave of our biz is disheartening, to say the least.

If, as expected, Harvey Mason Jr. is re-elected as Board chair, he will serve through mid-2023 and continue to wield power even after he’s succeeded as CEO. The rest of the all-powerful Executive Committee over which he presides are generally long-serving players slated to term out over the next few years, but odds are several will be returning to prominent seats at the table after waiting out the obligatory hiatus. (The Recording Academy’s rules allow trustees to serve two consecutive two-year terms and then serve again after a one-year break.)

Look at the career longevity enjoyed by George Flanigen and Terry Hemmings, both currently on the Executive Committee with each jumping between trustee and trustee officer roles for most of the last decade-plus. They’re merely operating within a system that by design enables people to dominate power positions. Over the last two decades, Academy figures such as Flanigen, Hemmings, Tammy Hurt, Christine Albert, Fletcher Foster, Leslie Ann Jones, Terry Jones and Eric Schilling, it appears, have been able to retain nearly uninterrupted power perches, sometimes for eight or even 10 years. Is this why there’s no change? After so long, we still don’t know what’s going on behind those doors. The secrecy is, to coin a phrase, Masonic.

As the search for Grammy’s new CEO continues, wonderers wonder who would want the gig. Last time, the Academy picked Deb Dugan, an idealist from the nonprofit sector, for the top job; as soon as she began to expose what was really going on, she was dethroned—and a legal battle ensued that remains unresolved. With The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both pulling back the curtain on Grammy’s secret world, what’s next?