Recording academy president Neil Portnow clarifies ‘step up’ comment about women at the Grammy Awards

This year’s Grammy Awards ranks as one of the lowest-rated in history. Perhaps the fact that the only female nominee for Album of the Year (Lorde with “Melodrama”) didn’t perform on the CBS telecast on Jan. 28 explains the dramatic drop in viewership. It was off by more than six million from last year when Adele and Beyonce each sang two numbers. Those one-named divas went head-to-head in the top races, with Adele sweeping.

It was reported that Lorde was not offered the same solo spot on the show as the four men in her race: Childish Gambino (“Awaken, My Love!”), JAY-Z (“4:44”), Kendrick Lamar (“DAMN.”) and winner Bruno Mars (“24K Magic”). Rather than be part of a Tom Petty tribute medley, she passed on appearing. After the telecast, Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich defended the decision not to feature her. “There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”

After just one woman —  Alessia Cara for Best New Artist — was singled out on the main show, recording academy chief Neil Portnow was asked backstage about their absence at the 2018 Grammys, As he explained, “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 to step up because I think they would be welcome.”

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Following an onslaught of criticism, Portnow issued a clarification of his remarks on Jan. 30: “Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it.”

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