Recording Academy president Neil Portnow made a controversial remark after only one woman won in a top category — Alessia Cara for Best New Artist — at the 2018 Grammy Awards on Sunday, January 28.
“I think [a change] has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on an executive level. [They need] to step up,” the executive told Variety backstage after the show at Madison Square Garden in New York City as #GrammysSoMale trended on Twitter.
“I think they would be welcome,” Portnow continued. “I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that [women] 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 who feel like they can do anything, they can say anything.”
Many of the Grammys’ attendees wore white roses in solidarity with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements that began in the wake of Hollywood’s sexual harassment and assault scandal. The ceremony even featured an emotional performance of Kesha’s ballad “Praying,” which was inspired by her legal battle with music producer Dr. Luke.
Despite those powerful moments, men dominated eight of the nine categories that aired during the Grammys telecast. Ed Sheeran, who did not attend, was awarded Best Pop Solo Performance for “Shape of You.” He was the only male artist nominated in the category, alongside Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Pink and Kesha.
Meanwhile, Lorde was the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, which Bruno Mars won for 24K Magic. She and Jay-Z were the only artists in the category who did not perform during the show. The rapper, 48, declined to take the stage, while Lorde, 21, reportedly was not offered a solo performance.
In response to the rumors about Lorde not having a chance to perform, Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich told Variety, “I don’t know if it was a mistake. These shows are a matter of choices. We have a box and it gets full. She had a great album. There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”