The Weeknd and his XO Records co-founders describe this year’s Grammys snub for ‘After Hours’ as “shocking,” “nightmarish,” “disrespectful” and “an attack” in new Billboard cover story.
As they do every year, the Grammy Awards caught heat the morning of nominations when The Weeknd received zero nominations despite releasing the best-performing Hot 100 song of 2020 with “Blinding Lights” and a critically-acclaimed #1 album, ‘After Hours.’ Fans and critics alike predicted him to be a frontrunner in the Record, Song and Album of the Year, prompting massive backlash against the academy online. In a now-infamous tweet, The Weeknd called the Grammys “corrupt.”
The Weeknd was also working on plans to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime show prior to nominations. A TMZ report fueled rumors that the Grammy Awards snubbed him out of spite following “testy” negotiations and an ultimatum forcing the hitmaker to choose between one gig or the other. The Weeknd later confirmed in a tweet he was collaborating with the Grammys “for weeks” on a performance for the show, a sure sign that he would’ve been nominated.
“I use a sucker punch as an analogy,” The Weeknd tells Billboard today. “Because it just kind of hit me out of nowhere. I definitely felt… I felt things. I don’t know if it was sadness or anger. I think it was just confusion. I just wanted answers. Like, ‘What happened?’ We did everything right, I think. I’m not a cocky person. I’m not arrogant. People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me. Like, ‘This is it; this is your year.’ We were all very confused.”
Billboard confirms that XO Records submitted ‘After Hours’ for six awards: Record/Song/Album of the Year; one “Pop” category; two R&B categories. The outlet reports that the two R&B entries were moved to a pop field by a genre screening committee.
The Grammys also has a nomination review committee comprised of 15-30 individuals who narrow down the top-vote getters in the Big 4 categories (Album, Record, Song, Best New Artist) and form an official ballot of nominees. Notably, these individuals are anonymous, and XO Records CEO Wassim Slaiby isn’t too happy about this.
“What is that secret committee? What the fuck?” Slaiby tells Billboard. “It’s a powerful special award, but the leadership there has got to go. They’re weak.”
Slaiby reveals he called interim Recording Academy President Harvey Mason Jr. the day of the nominations to address the snub. “I wasn’t mad,” he tells Billboard. “I said, ‘Hey, bro, how are you? How’s your day? Our day is shit. What the f–k just went down?’”
La Mar C. Taylor, creative director at XO, tells Billboard that The Weeknd has always “played the game” when it comes to award shows like the Grammys. “He’s rubbed those shoulders; he’s done those performances; he’s talked to those high-level people. We’re very well respected. A lot of people know us, individually and as a collective.”
The Weeknd for Billboard (Photography by Micaiah Carter)
The Weeknd suggests to Billboard that the Grammys have always been behind when it comes to awarding artists of color. “If you were like, ‘Do you think the Grammys are racist?’ I think the only real answer is that in the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won album of the year. I don’t want to make this about me. That’s just a fact.”
“Look, I personally don’t care anymore,” he continues. “I have three Grammys, which mean nothing to me now, obviously. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I want the Grammy!’ It’s just that this happened, and I’m down to get in front of the fire, as long as it never happens again…I suck at giving speeches anyways. Forget awards shows.”
Do you think the Grammy Awards made a mistake by snubbing The Weeknd? Share your thoughts with us on social media at @PopCrave!