The president of the Recording Academy thinks the Grammy voting process is fair and balanced, without racial bias.
"No I don't think there's a race problem at all," said Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy, the body that votes on the nominees and winners at the Grammy Awards.
The Academy has been accused of being racially biased, and not suitably diverse, in the past. Such accusations were rampant after this year's show, mostly due to the perceived snub of Beyonce's Lemonade in the Album of the Year category.
Beyonce, pregnant with twins, showed up at this year's Grammys and put on a dazzling performance of two songs from Lemonade. The album won the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and she also took home one more trophy for Best Music Video ("Formation"). Even so, many were deeply upset that Adele's 25 beat out Lemonade for Album of the Year.
Even Adele seemed to think Beyonce deserved the award more than herself. "I can't possibly accept the award," she said tearfully, "and I'm very humbled and very gracious, but my artist of my life is Beyonce. And this album, for me, the Lemonade album, was just so monumental, Beyonce."
Portnow, however, does not see an issue with the lack of black winners of the Album of the Year award. A black artist has not taken home the award since 2008 (Herbie Hancock), and the last black female to win it was Lauryn Hill in 1999. Still, Portnow, in an interview with Pitchfork, insisted upon the fairness of the Academy's voting process:
"No, I don’t think there’s a race problem at all. Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the Grammys, it’s not a corporate entity—it’s the 14,000 members of the Academy. They have to qualify in order to be members, which means they have to have recorded and released music, and so they are sort of the experts and the highest level of professionals in the industry. It’s always hard to create objectivity out of something that’s inherently subjective, which is what art and music is about. We do the best we can. We have 84 categories where we recognize all kinds of music, from across all spectrums."
He did not speak on the racial makeup of the voting body.
Portnow also suggested that Chance The Rapper being named Best New Artist at this year's ceremony is evidence that no such racial bias exists within the Academy. Chance won the awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance ("No Problem"), and Best Rap Album (Coloring Book). There were no white nominees in either of the latter two categories. Chance beat out three white acts (and Anderson. Paak) to win Best New Artist.
"To your earlier question about a racial problem," said Portnow. "The album, record, song and best new artist categories are ones that the entire voting membership is entitled to vote on. You don’t get Chance the Rapper as the Best New Artist of the year if you have a membership that isn’t diverse and isn’t open-minded and isn’t really listening to the music, and not really considering other elements beyond how great the music is."