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KACEYGATE: ESQUIRE EVISCERATES THE GRAMMYS

“When it comes to problems, the Grammys have enough to fill a stadium,” writes Esquire’s Justin Kirkland in the lede of a critique headlined “Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy Disqualification is a Damning Look at the Recording Academy’s Priorities.” After listing some of the org’s recent self-inflicted wounds, culminating with the barring Musgraves’s star-crossed from consideration for Best Country Album, Kirkland describes this latest gaffe as “a decision so confounding that you have to wonder if the Grammys simply enjoy causing problems.”

A few paragraphs later, he swoops in for the kill:

“The Academy’s decision to exclude Musgraves was exercised under regulations that require a work to be ‘51% country,’ a bar so wildly subjective it can’t help but end up political, but it also seems like the most minute of the organization’s problems right now. In just the past few years, the Academy micromanaged a 2019 ceremony Ariana Grande performance so heavily that she pulled out of performing entirely. And who could forget, that same year, when they wouldn’t let Lorde perform her own Best Album-nominated music solo? There was also the total dismissal of The Weeknd’s 2020 LP, After Hours, which garnered no nominations despite being one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed albums of the year. And in the last 20 years, the Academy has shown a growing disconnect from a reality dominated by hip-hop. Guess who has a Best Album Award? Not Kanye. Or Jay-Z. Or Kendrick.”

Kirkland’s conclusion—”The Grammys will support innovation, so long as you stay in your lane”—eerily echoes Neil Portnow’s disastrous offhanded “step up” comment from 2018 that mainstreamed awareness of the Academy’s chronic tendency to shoot itself in the foot. The leadership may have been overhauled, but the pattern persists.

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