Multi-platinum recording artist (and, now, high-profile political activist) Taylor Swift reportedly canceled a planned but un-announced performance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, Variety magazine reports, possibly in response to allegations that the Recording Academy, which runs the Grammy Awards, was engaged in “fixing” the nominations process, and tolerated a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.
Ousted Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan is behind the allegations, telling a series of morning shows this week that the Grammy nominations process is “fixed,” and that former Grammy head, Neil Portnow, among others, actively resisted diversifying the pool of Grammy nominees, effectively shutting out female musicians and musicians of color, according to Harper’s Bazaar.
In a bombshell report filed with California’s Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) after her firing, Dugan is said to have alleged that Portnow raped a female recording artist and that Recording Academy general counsel Joel Katz sexually harassed her during her time at the Academy. Both Portnow and Katz deny the allegations.
“Dugan mentions in her claims that memorable artists such as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, and Frank Ocean were snubbed in previous years, and that the biggest awards tend to go to rock, country, and pop artists. She then outlined how the Grammy voting process is allegedly tainted,” Harper’s reported last week. “[A]ccording to her complaint, the board uses the [nomination] committees to promote artists they have relationships with, and ‘manipulates the nominations process’ to include songs that Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich wants performed during the ceremony. The board has even given nominations to submissions that weren’t in the top 20 list at all, per the filing. This year, that happened with 30 nominees.”
The Recording Academy denies that there is any “fixing” involved with Grammy nominations, and that performances often come from the slate of nominees, not the other way around.
“It is the goal of the Recording Academy to ensure the GRAMMY Awards process is led in a fair and ethical manner and that voting members make their choices based solely on the artistic excellence and technical merits of eligible recordings,” the Academy said in a statement.
They called Dugan’s accusations, “spurious.”
Dugan’s allegations of sexual impropriety are shocking. She says Katz propositioned her during what was supposed to be a “work dinner.”
“Starting with calling me ‘babe’ and telling me how attractive I was and how pretty I was, and then the evening went on to a kiss and him trying to kiss me and all the way through I felt like I was being tested … I feel that was a power-setting move as soon as I was coming onto the committee,” she told Good Morning America in an appearance this week.
Katz responded through his attorney: “Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening.”
Swift may have shied away because of the sexual harassment allegations, though, regardless of their veracity. Variety notes that “multiple sources” confirmed Swift to be a surprise performer Sunday night, and that the Recording Academy even went so far as to save her a seat in the audience, before the recording artist and 10-time Grammy Award winner ultimately decided not to attend or perform.
“There has been speculation that Swift might perform a song from her new Lover album titled ‘The Man,’ which takes on sexism,” country music news site, Taste of Country, reported, adding that Swift’s reasons for pulling out remain a mystery.