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Recording academy president says women need to “step up” if they want to win more Grammys

“Prove me wrong, little ladies” (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Though the bulk of the statuettes had been handed out before the 60th Grammy Awards telecast began, the ceremony was still a lively affair thanks to stirring performances from Kendrick Lamar, Kesha, and Childish Gambino. But as the night went on, astute viewers noticed how few female nominees were making their way to the stage as the winners in their respective categories.

A hashtag, #GrammysSoMale, began to make the rounds as women were shut out of all of the major categories, save for Alessia Cara’s win for Best New Artist. And where all the other Album Of The Year nominees had been invited to perform solo during the awards show, Lorde was not, which is reportedly why she declined to join the Tom Petty tribute.


After the dust had settled, Variety asked NARAS president Neil Portnow to weigh in on the glaring omissions. And while he seemed to acknowledge that there might be some inequity in the system—though he hasn’t experienced any—Portnow gave a mostly condescending response to the concerns.

“It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us—us as an industry—to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”


So we guess all the women nominated this time around, including Lorde, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and SZA—the latter of whom scored the most nominations of any female artist this year—haven’t shown enough creativity or ambition? But this wouldn’t be the first time Portnow bungled his response to a reasonable query about representation in music; when asked last year about the overwhelming whiteness of the awards show, he proposed listening to music with a blindfold, because as we all know, we hear songs with our eyes, not ears.

But to Portnow’s point about women supposedly needing to finally just show some interest in being musicians, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has provided some in-depth analysis of the awards show’s very real gender gap.


Variety also asked Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich about the dishearteningly low number of women winners, who replied “It’s not for me to talk about.” When asked if Taylor Swift’s inclusion would have made any difference, Ehrlich said, “It wasn’t her year. She was kind of off cycle. Hopefully we’ll see her next year.”


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