Members of Family Music Forward and two groups that asked to have their nominations removed from the Grammy category for Best Children’s Album said Recording Academy officials admitted in a December 11 meeting that the committee of review of nominations for the category was not diverse enough.
The admission of the Academy was discussed during a roundtable which will be published soon and which Billboard conducted with children’s music artists Aaron Nigel Smith, Christina sanabria by 123 AndrÃ©s, Pierce Freelon, Joe mailander the Okee Dokee brothers and Alastair Moock. All participants are members of the FMF, an artist collective formed last summer to fight institutional and systemic racial prejudice in the music industry.
The Academy then held a Zoom meeting on December 11 to discuss the issue attended by all of the nominees in the category – Mailander and Justin lansing brothers Okee Dokee, Moock, Dean Jones Flea Dog, Joanie leeds and Justin roberts, who is an administrator of the Academy (elected by the Chicago chapter) – as well as Lucy kalantari, singer of Lucy & The Jazz Cats, and black children’s music artists Smith, Uncle Devin, his wife manager lolita walker and Tommy Berger from the ABC Rockers.
Acting President of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr. and responsible for diversity, equity and inclusion Valeisha Butterfield Jones were among the Academy officials who attended the meeting.
âThe great thing the Grammys admitted at that meeting was that the Nominating Review Committee [for the category] did not have a strong representation of people of color, âsays Mailander. “It was said bluntly – they said it should have been louder and that was unacceptable.”
Following the general vote of Academy members for which children’s albums deserve nominations, a Nominations Review Committee of 13-17 members who are category experts listens to the top 15 selections and narrows them down to one. field of five via a confidential vote.
A more diverse nominations review committee might well have been less likely to ignore notable children’s music releases rooted in hip-hop, reggae and Latin music. Moock observed, for example, that Freelon’s album, DaD, which chronicles the experiences of a millennial black father living in the South, “has by far had more national press this year than any album for. kids released in 2020. It was on the Today Show, NPR, and a bunch of other shows. The national audience understood that this album was important, he said. “How does that not give a nomination?” “
In four of the past five years, the children’s music category has included candidates of color, making the lack of diversity in this year’s ballot particularly infuriating after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, as well as the Academy’s commitment to make its membership and nomination process more diverse and inclusive. Four of this year’s nominees are folk or rock flavored (with Dogs on Fleas favoring playful electro-funk) – a demonstration the panelists agreed to is not representative of the diversity of children’s music today. ‘hui. âI would say this is a special category that really needs experts who understand gender diversity,â Mailander said during the roundtable. “They didn’t have that, and it’s embarrassing for our category.”
The Zoom Appeal of December 11 was actually the second meeting the Academy has held on the issue. He contacted members of Family Music Forward on December 4 after the organization noted the all-white vote for Best Children’s Album on social media in late November following the announcement of the Grammy nominations.
Smith, who was among the FMF members who attended the first video call, said the meeting was a “heart to heart” in which the collective presented “recommendations on how we might move forward. before “. These recommendations included “more transparency throughout the voting process, including an overhaul of the nominations review committee.” A representative from the Recording Academy said the names of the nominations review committee members are being kept confidential for “protection and confidentiality”, but added: “Nothing is excluded, and we will continue to assess. “
Butterfield Jones’ statement following the December 11 meeting affirmed the Academy’s commitment to diversity, while acknowledging that there was still work to be done. But some of the artists who participated in the discussion were disappointed that she offered no mea culpa regarding the category nominations review board. âWe expected them to issue a statement assuming their responsibilities very clearly,â says Mailander.
Nonetheless, Smith said the Academy “seemed to agree to create significant change.” For example, he said the Academy invited the FMF to participate in a âlistening sessionâ in February. According to the Academy representative, “the purpose of the discussion is to build community, increase representation and submissions among black children’s music creators, and ensure the category is prioritized and focused. in our strategy and our work “.
And although the Grammy ballots were released before brothers Okee Dokee, Moock and Dogs on Fleas announced their protest – which the representative said prevented the Academy from removing their names – Mailander says that he and the other musicians were surprised to learn of January. .7 that the votes for the three acts will not be counted and the Grammy will go to whichever of the two remaining nominees, Leeds and Roberts, gets the most nods.
The Academy representative said the two remaining candidates had been informed of the decision. The protesting candidates had not done so, however, and when Mailander was alerted to this development, he said the Okee Dokee brothers and their fellow protesters, “are delighted to hear that we are no longer an official candidate this. year ; that the academy agreed to our request and that there is no chance that we will win this award.