Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X are ready to make a splash at Sunday’s star-studded Grammy awards, where pop’s new guard is poised to win big — even as scandal backstage has threatened to tarnish the glitz.
Music’s marquee night in Los Angeles promises to deliver rollicking performances from the zeitgeist-capturing newbies, as well as tributes to the veteran rockers Aerosmith and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
But even as the glamorous show aims to reinvent itself with an injection of youth, while also spotlighting women and promoting diversity within its ranks, controversy is simmering.
Just days before the gala, the Recording Academy’s suspended CEO Deborah Dugan — the first woman to lead the embattled institution behind the Grammys — filed an explosive discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
She says she was suspended after raising concerns over sexual harassment, voting irregularities and other misconduct within the Academy — one of music’s most influential organizations, but one long accused of favoritism and a lack of diversity.
Dugan also alleged that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, had raped a foreign female musician — an allegation he has rejected as “ludicrous and untrue.”
The storm has threatened to cloud the Grammy celebration, despite a diverse slate of nominees that celebrates a mix of established and budding stars.
“The timing of it is a shame and the whole situation, it’s a shame,” said Michael McDonald, the chair emeritus of MusiCares, the Academy’s charity arm that supports music industry members.
“I think it’s really important that we focus on the positives,” he told AFP on the red carpet at the annual MusiCares gala on Friday, which this year honored Aerosmith.
Still, McDonald said the Academy must take a long hard look at itself and at reform: “Things have to evolve.”