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Artists Demand Grammys President 'Step Down' After He Told Women to 'Step Up'

Neil Portnow

#GrammysSoMale? Pink and Justin Trantor were among those who criticized Recording Academy president Neil Portnow for tone-deaf remarks.


The president of the Recording Academy is facing a backlash for tone-deaf remarks about women.

At the Sunday ceremony, Neil Portnow attempted to explain to reporters backstage why male nominees outnumbered female nominees during music's biggest night.

Several women sang onstage, among them Lady Gaga, Pink, and Kesha in a heartbreaking performance of "Praying" that resonated with the #MeToo movement.

But Alessia Cara was the only female musician to accept her own award during the televised event, for Best New Artist. Lorde, who was the only female nominee for Album of the Year, did not perform.

Portnow's answer to this inequality? He said that "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" need to "step up," Variety reported.

The demand for women in the music industry to "step up" did not sit well with many. In response, #GrammysSoMale began trending on Twitter, with calls for Portnow to "step down."

Many also pushed back against the logic of Pornow's remarks. "Women in music don't need to 'step up' -- women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside," Pink wrote in a photographed note posted to Twitter. "Women owned music this year. They've been killing it. And every year before this."

Others pointed out the challenges that prevent women from rising in the field. "Instead of asking women to 'step up,' what about asking about the systemic obstacles they face when trying to achieve sustainable careers in the music business?" questioned the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

Sheryl Crow proposed a "return to female/male categories" to help address the disparity.

And many were outraged that the only male nominee for Best Pop Solo Performance, Ed Sheeran, bested a category full of women: Kesha, Pink, Lady Gaga, and Kelly Clarkson. Sheeran, who was not present for the ceremony, won for his song "Shape of You," a song about female objectification.

In response to the controvery, Portnow released a statement clarifying his remarks to Variety:

Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year's Grammy Awards. 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.

I regret that I wasn't as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.