It's been an exceptionally tiring few months for the entertainment world, between fervent backlash to the Super Bowl halftime show lineup and the hullabaloo over who would host the Oscars (no one), how many nominations polarizing films Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody would receive (five each), how many original song nominees would be performing live (all of them, apparently thanks to Lady Gaga) and, well . . . we could go on.
But we'll pause there, if only to save our breath for the latest award show drama - this time, concerning the Grammys. Pop singer Ariana Grande recently tweeted that she pulled out of performing this year due to a creative disagreement with its producers, while rappers Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover), Drake and Kendrick Lamar all reportedly turned down offers from the show, which has a fraught history with hip-hop artists. This marks yet another rough year for the Grammys.
It all began when Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich told The Associated Press in an article published Thursday that by the time Grande and those running the show reached the point where a performance felt possible, she decided against it because she felt it was "too late for her to pull something together." Grande was quick to refute this account on Twitter, her chosen medium for handling such matters.
"I can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken," she wrote Thursday afternoon. "it was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you, that I decided not to attend. I hope the show is exactly what you want it to be and more." She ended the tweet with her trademark black heart emoji.
Grande added that she had offered to perform three different songs, but that the process, which she wrote should be "about art and honesty," wound up feeling like a game: "that's not what music is to me," she concluded.
The singer, who sent the tweets just hours before the highly anticipated release of her album Thank U, Next, is up for two awards this year: best pop solo performance for God Is A Woman, and best pop vocal album for Sweetener. In addition to other general field categories, Glover, Drake and Lamar all earned record of the year nominations for This Is America, God's Plan and All the Stars, respectively. Ehrlich told The New York Times in an article also published on Thursday that the rappers had also declined his invitations to perform at the show.
(Neither the academy nor the artists' representatives have returned The Washington Post's requests for comment.)
The Grammys' tense relationship with the hip-hop community goes back decades. In 1989, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff boycotted the show after they learned that the presentation of the best rap performance award wouldn't be televised, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Hollywood craftspeople have a similar fear this year, as the film academy previously announced its plans to present certain Oscars during commercial breaks. It hasn't confirmed which ones, but rumors point to the technical categories.)
Fast forward 30 years, and the Grammys are still accused of mistreating hip-hop and R&B artists, who rarely take home awards in top categories. Some prominent figures whom the Grammys have "alienated," per the Times, include Drake, Frank Ocean, Kanye West and Jay-Z, who called out the 2018 Grammys specifically on a track from Everything Is Love, his joint album with wife Beyonce. Despite receiving eight nominations that year - the most of anyone - he went home empty-handed.
Ehrlich, in the Times interview, acknowledged that the Grammys "continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world."
"When they don't take home the big prize," he said, "the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad."
The Grammys have also struggled with gender inequality, an issue that came to its head last year. Best new artist Alessia Cara was the only woman to receive her own award during the telecast, and Lorde, the sole woman to earn an album of the year nomination, was not invited to perform her own music. A study released by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative days before the ceremony found that of the 899 individuals who had been nominated for the previous six shows, 90.7 percent were men.
When asked soon after the show about the lack of female winners, academy president Neil Portnow said women needed to "step up" - now-infamous words that instantly drew outrage, and which he said were taken out of context. Weeks later, the academy announced that it had hired Tina Tchen, a lawyer and Michelle Obama's former chief of staff, to head a new task force on inclusion and diversity. Portnow announced later in the year that he would not seek to extend his contract, which ends this year.
This year's show exhibits some efforts to combat these diversity issues - the academy, which the Times reported has invited 900 new members to vote, expanded major categories from five to eight nominees. Fifteen-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys will be the first woman to host the ceremony in over a decade.
It remains to be seen whether Grande will attend.
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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)