Why Is the Weeknd Not Performing At the Grammys?

Music’s supposedly biggest stage, the 63rdannual Grammy Awards, will be populated tonight—as the Grammys said, “together, while still safely apart”—with music’s biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Cardi B, and BTS. The Weeknd, however, will not be in attendance—together or safely apart.

In fact, the Weeknd has decided to boycott the awards, telling the New York Times in a statement, “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”

Few musicians have had so mercurial a winter as the Weeknd. The Canadian artist—real name Abel Tesfaye—took home a slew of American Music Awards late November and seemed poised to rack up Grammy Nominations that same week. Except the Grammys took one look at the Weeknd’s fourth album, After Hours, which had one of the biggest debut weeks of any 2020 album and included platinum singles like “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights—the Grammys saw this—and said, “nahhhh, fam.” The Weeknd would later describe the morning of the Grammy nominations as a “sucker punch.” (He received none.)

It was a sucker punch that soured the Weeknd’s desire to perform at the awards ceremony. Of course, by then, the Weeknd had already booked the biggest show of the year, the Super Bowl LV halftime show, which would go on to attract nearly 100 million viewers and provide a triple digit growth in the Weeknd’s music sales. (The Grammys deny snubbing the Weeknd because of his halftime booking.)

The Super Bowl made for the kind of performance the Grammys would certainly want a piece of. They will get none of it. No “Heartless.” No “Blinding Lights.” The Weeknd will not even be there.

Why isn’t the Weeknd attending the Grammys?

The reason the Weeknd won’t perform: he simply wasn’t nominated. The decision, however, isn’t one of petulance, but instead a legitimate frustration with the Grammy nomination process and, likely, the Grammy institution itself—the award show having in recent years received accusations of bias against women and Black artists.

The real question then is why wasn’t the Weeknd nominated? Some believe the snub comes from the “anonymous expert committees” who, after reviewing nominations from the Recording Academy—comprising thousands of music professionals, i.e., the voters—somehow have the final say on nominations.

It’s this backroom secrecy that led the Weeknd to boycott the awards, now refusing to submit music for future consideration.

The Weeknd joins the ranks of other artists—most notably, Drake, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean—who have also openly criticized the Grammys. While the Grammys have taken steps to diversify its membership, it remains to be seen how future artist recognition reflects this initiative.

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