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KACEYGATE: OOPS,
THEY DID IT AGAIN

The Recording Academy’s ruling that Kacey Musgravesstar-crossed (Interscope/Mercury Nashville) is ineligible for the Country Album of the Year Grammy—apparently failing to meet the stipulation that a work must be “51% country” to be considered—has sent shockwaves across the music business and beyond.

To put the situation in perspective, Musgraves has won six Grammys, five of them in country categories. Her last album, 2019’s Golden Hour, won Album of the Year as well as Country Album of the Year. The same team—producers Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Musgraves, plus mixer Shawn Everett—made both records; Fitchuk, Tashian and Musgraves wrote 11 of the 15 songs on star-crossed and roughly half of the 13 songs on Golden Hour.

UMG Nashville President Cindy Mabe drew attention to the issue in a letter to Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.

“Taking her out of the country category actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall,” Mabe wrote. “The idea that a handful of people, including competitors, who would benefit from Kacey not being in the country category are deciding what is country only exacerbates the problem. The system is broken and, sadly, not just for Kacey Musgraves but for our entire genre because of how these decisions are made for music’s biggest stage. Building roadblocks for artists who dare to fight the system is so dangerous and against everything I think the Grammys stand for. But that’s where we are today.”

Mabe then hailed Musgraves as “a beacon in a format ready to push back on the idea that there is more than one way to succeed, that there is more than one sound and perspective for what country music is and, most importantly, who it speaks to.”  

Musgraves put the nuttiness surrounding her country bona fides in perspective by posting a career-spanning collection of photos on her Instagram story highlighting her obvious ties to the genre, including pics with Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain, George Strait and more. And in a surgically succinct tweet, she quipped, “You can take the girl out of the country (genre), but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”

The story soon went wide. In an insightful overview of the controversy, Esquire’s Justin Kirkland described the Academy’s latest gaffe as “a decision so confounding that you have to wonder if the Grammys simply enjoy causing problems.”

His conclusion—“The Grammys will support innovation, so long as you stay in your lane”—echoes Neil Portnow’s disastrous offhand “step up” comment from 2018, which mainstreamed awareness of the Academy’s chronic tendency to shoot itself in the foot. The leadership may have been overhauled, but the pattern persists.

And in the midst of the Kacey kerfuffle, we learned that the soundtrack to Bo Burnham’s brilliant Inside (Imperial/Republic) had been disqualified from Best Comedy Album consideration by the Grammy brain trust. The album will instead compete for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. Insert punchline here.

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