President/CEO of The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation President/CEO Neil Portnow (L) and Adele backstage during during the The 59th GRAMMY Awards.
Michael Kovac—Getty Images for NARAS

"It's always hard to create objectivity out of something that's inherently subjective"

By Cady Lang
February 15, 2017

As Adele’s 25 beat Beyonce’s Lemonade to the top prizes at this year’s Grammys, it was the latest in a series of controversial award-winners prompting backlash from some artists and viewers alike.

The ceremony was no exception, drawing criticism from those who feel the academy has consistently undervalued black artists. Following the ceremony, in an interview with Pitchfork Recording Academy president Neil Portnow responded to the question “do you think the Grammys has a race problem?”

“No, I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” he answered. “Remember, this is a peer-voted award, it’s not a corporate entity – it’s the 14,000 members of the Academy…It’s always hard to create objectivity out of something that’s inherently subjective, which is what art and music is about. We do the best we can.”

Portnow added that the academy takes the work of expanding their membership to be more inclusive seriously.

“We are always working on increasing diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age,” he said. “In order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board.”

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