Grammy Chief Neil Portnow: Nominees Reflect a ‘Tipping Point’ for Diversity

As anyone reading this probably knows, the Grammy Awards, and Recording Academy chairman Neil Portnow in particular, received a firestorm of criticism in the months after this year’s ceremony due to the low female representation in the nominees, the winners and the show — and by extension the industry at large. Fueling the fire was an unfortunately comment Portnow made to a Variety reporter immediately after the show, in which he said female artists and executives need to “step up” in order to receive greater recognition. While he later said he misspoke, and some of the criticism fell far beyond the purview of the Grammys and Portnow, much of it was completely valid. Portnow announced that he will be stepping down from his post in July of 2019, and the Academy formed an internal Task Force to further diversity.

All of the controversy seems to have had a positive effect: While the 2019 nominees list certainly isn’t perfect, it’s a vast improvement in terms of gender diversity (the 2018 nominees list was quite racially diverse, although the winners were not). Variety — which played no small role in reporting the criticism — spoke with Portnow about this year’s nominees, and how they reflect changes within the Academy.

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