The Weeknd has decided to boycott the Grammy Awards in the future following his controversial shutout from this year’s nominations.
The superstar was thought to be a strong contender in the Big Four categories, including album of the year for his fourth LP After Hours, which spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and had the biggest streaming week for an R&B album ever, as well as record of the year and song of the year for his blockbuster smash hit “Blinding Lights,” which continues to break Billboard chart records a year after its release. But on the morning of Nov. 24, 2020, when the 2021 Grammy Award nominations were called out, The Weeknd’s name was nowhere to be found on the list.
The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) initially expressed his frustration toward the Recording Academy by tweeting, “The Grammys remain corrupt.” In his second Twitter missive, he wrote that he went from planning a Grammys performance to being “not invited.”
“Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys,” the three-time Grammy winner said in statement to The New York Times ahead of Sunday’s awards show.
The singer’s peers agreed with his frustration, with Drake and Kid Cudi among those who spoke out about The Weeknd’s snub. The “Blinding Lights” artist now join the ranks of fellow Black superstars who have publicly boycotted Music’s Biggest Night, including 22-time Grammy winner Jay-Z, 21-time Grammy winner Kanye West and two-time Grammy winner Frank Ocean.
Harvey Mason, Jr., the Recording Academy’s chair and interim president/CEO, issued a response to The Weeknd’s statement, telling The New York Times, “We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset. But I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”
In The Weeknd’s Billboard cover story, he said the historic snub felt like “a sucker punch.” “It just kind of hit me out of nowhere. I definitely felt … I felt things. I don’t know if it was sadness or anger. I think it was just confusion,” he elaborated. “I just wanted answers. Like, ‘What happened?’ We did everything right, I think. I’m not a cocky person. I’m not arrogant. People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me. Like, ‘This is it; this is your year.’ We were all very confused.”
In the last 62 years of the Grammy Awards, only 10 Black artists have won album of the year as lead artists, with Stevie Wonder winning a record-tying three times. The Weeknd was up for the category in 2016 for his sophomore album Beauty Behind the Madness, which ended up taking home the trophy for best urban contemporary album. He’s won two other Grammy Awards in the last five years, including best R&B performance for “Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” and best urban contemporary album for his third album Starboy. But in his Billboard interview, he noted his three Grammys “mean nothing to me now.”
Aside from the three general field categories of record, song and album of the year, The Weeknd’s team submitted his music in one pop and two R&B categories, the latter of which were moved to pop by a genre screening committee (which exist across genres to oversee properly categorizing potential nominees). The first round of voting is open to all academy members, while nomination review committees (comprised of 15-30 voting members whose identities aren’t disclosed) narrow down top vote-getters to those on the Grammy ballot. While some genre-specific categories aren’t overseen by said committees, the Big Four are.
“What is that secret committee? What the f—?” his manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby demanded in the Billboard cover story, while suggesting “they cancel the f—ing secret committee and become full transparency.” He told The New York Times about how many weeks and calls went into planning The Weeknd’s performance at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, which was thought to have been in direct conflict with his Super Bowl LV halftime show performance, right up until that fateful Nov. 24 morning of the nominations.
“The Grammys should handle their legacy and clean it up to raise the bar to a level where everyone could be proud to hold up that award,” Slaiby added. “This is Harvey’s chance to step up and have his legacy be the guy who got the Grammys finally right.”