HITS Daily Double


ROOM TO MOVE: Here we are in Grammy season, and the notorious Secret Committees may be gone—for which Academy boss Harvey Mason Jr. is taking full credit, after claiming they didn’t exist—but now the Secret Boardroom is where the rubber meets the road. In that obscure space, populated by 12-15 members of the Top-Secret Cabal, nominations and winners are fine-tuned; witness the increase to 10 nominations in the Big 4 categories last time. It’s also where the kneecapping of The Weeknd went down, where the horse-trading takes place and, more than a few bizniks believe, where it’s ultimately decided who’ll go home with hardware. It’s also, notably, where acts and records that have been virtually invisible to the biz—and the marketplace—are surreptitiously anointed, often at the expense of smashes and superstars.

Deborah Dugan raised a red flag over all this skullduggery and was summarily ousted; her subsequent silence was arranged with an $8m settlement. The Mason administration’s vaunted remedy, meanwhile, appears to have been largely cosmetic. Mason and his inner circle are rightly praised for their successful efforts to make the Academy membership and programming more diverse, and for a thoughtful and compassionate approach to member health during the COVID crisis. But the power to reward and punish with the awards is simply too corrupting, as the byzantine bylaws allow insiders to keep their thumbs on the scales. Their work abolishing the (ostensibly nonexistent) Secret Committees, for which they’ve already taken a few bows, didn’t abolish the secrecy that sullies the awards process; it’s simply moved to the Secret Boardroom, where a clique of Academy insiders presses the flesh on behalf of their own or their friends’ projects and deals are made that absolutely no one has voted on.

At the other extreme, the Secret Boardroom is where superstar artists demand that the Academy commit major Grammys to them before they’ll agree to perform on the show. If, for example, an A-list superstar isn’t winning in a significant category, they’re not performing, and everybody knows that. Rumor has it that some esteemed acts have shaken down the show for some nominations but didn’t ask to perform. If they’re going to perform, however, they’re going to want a big look—especially with the primetime stage to promote a new tour or music. So if you’re the producer of the show, there’s no question that you’re going to want to give a megastar that big look, because, let’s face it, how many acts with star power can command that stage and drive viewership?

Speaking of superstars, Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) is eligible and has been submitted, as has her “All Too Well (10-Minute Version)” from the rerecorded album and is considered a strong contender for Song and Record of the Year. But none of that matters—she’s so formidable that it behooves the powers that be to do whatever it takes to get her involved in any way possible. No matter what winds up happening in this instance, it’s always fascinating to watch Taylor working her way toward creating massive moments for herself as her new album, Midnights, gets ready to be released on 10/21.