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Grammys 2018: Academy President Says Female Artists Should “Step Up” in Order to Win More Awards

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: The Recording Academy and MusiCares President/CEO Neil Portnow speaks onstage during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for NARAS)

Last night, Variety asked Recording Academy president Neil Portnow to comment on the overwhelming dominance of male winners at the Grammy Awards last night. Throughout all of the major categories, Alessia Cara was the sole female awardee, taking home a statue in the Best New Artist category. Notably, SZA, who was nominated in a formidable five categories, won no awards, and Lorde, an Album of the Year nominee, did not get an opportunity to perform during the show. The upshot of this–and more–was a popular #GrammysSoMale hashtag.

When asked about the controversy, Portnow suggested, in an unfortunate turn of phrase, that female artists should “step up” the quality of their work in years to come, since they certainly, theoretically, “would be welcome” among the Academy’s ranks. Here’s Portnow’s full, garbled quote:

It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you 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.

Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich was also interviewed, and declined to comment on the controversies surrounding the show. When asked specifically about Lorde not being granted a performance in the show like other nominees in the Album of the Year category, Ehrlich said: “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.”

Ehrlich also mentioned that he hoped Lorde’s friend Taylor Swift would choose to attend the ceremony next year, theorizing that her absence at the awards last night was due to the fact that she was not up for awards this year, or rather “kind of off cycle.”