“You think I give a damn about a Grammy?” rapped Eminem on The Real Slim Shady but, right now, the approval of even the biggest artists in the world is the least of the Recording Academy’s worries.
I write this in the run-up to the 2020 ceremony, but this year, no one is talking about the music. The Grammys are no strangers to controversy, but the Recording Academy is going to have to pull off the most remarkable show in its storied history if it's going to have any chance of overshadowing the astonishing events surrounding the departure of new Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan.
Dugan was placed on “administrative leave” just days before music’s self-styled ‘biggest night’, sparking a war of words that has gripped the biz throughout Grammys week.
Some of the claims surrounding Deborah Dugan’s departure make Kill Your Friends look like My Little Pony
Some of the more lurid claims and counter-claims surrounding Dugan’s departure make Kill Your Friends look like My Little Pony and it’s going to take a long time, and probably a lot of legal action, before we get anywhere near to the truth of what actually did and didn’t happen.
But one thing is clear: the Recording Academy is in the grips of a crisis the likes of which the music industry has never seen, and it has only itself to blame.
Former boss Neil Portnow’s infamous instruction to female artists to “step up” in order to gain Grammys recognition in 2018 might have been a colossal faux pas, but it at least offered the Academy the chance to change. The formation of a Diversity Task Force to revamp the Academy, the female artist-dominated 2019 ceremony and the appointment of Dugan offered hope that that change was coming. It even made up with Ariana Grande, due to perform on Sunday night.
But, instead, in a few short weeks, the Grammys have gone from “step up” to meltdown. And if the swamp of vested interests and dubious practices that this incident appears to reveal isn’t drained this time, it could ultimately lead to shutdown for the planet's biggest awards ceremony.
But whether anyone – the fans, the artists, even the music industry – would actually still give a damn were that to happen remains to be seen.