Exec Takes Out Full-Page Ad in NYT to Criticize Grammys
Read the full letter, in which Stoute says the Grammys "have clearly lost touch with contemporary popular culture."
NEW YORK -- Longtime marketing/music exec and hip-hop insider Steve Stoute slammed the Grammys in a full page advertisement appearing in the Styles section of Sunday's New York Times. In it, he criticizes the Grammys, the show's parent organization the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and its president, Neil Portnow, for an "awards show [that] has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions."
"Over the course of my 20-year history as an executive in the music business and as the owner of a firm that specializes in in-culture advertising, I have come to the conclusion that the Grammy Awards have clearly lost touch with contemporary popular culture," Stoute, who is currently CEO of the marketing company Translation, wrote. "My being a music fan has left me with an even greater and deeper sense of dismay -- so much so that I feel compelled to write this letter. Where I think that the Grammys fail stems from two key sources: (1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic."
Stoute singles out what he deems to be snubs by the Academy directed at Eminem, Justin Bieber and Kanye West; Eminem and Bieber lost in most of the major categories for which they'd been nominated in last weekend's Grammy Awards.
"We must acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Eminem and Kanye West and how their music is shaping, influencing and defining the voice of a generation," Stoute wrote. As for Bieber, he wrote, "How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist?"
Stoute also seems to allege that award wins are connected to artists performing during the show, citing Arcade Fire's surprise win of album of the year for The Suburbs to the group performing two songs at the end of the show -- a decision that longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich told reporters had been made the day before the show, although he also admitted to being a fan of the group.
"While these very artists that the public acknowledges as being worthy of their money and fandom are snubbed year after year at the Grammys, the awards show has absolutely no qualms in inviting these same artists to perform," he wrote. "Interesting that the Grammys understands cultural relevance when it comes to using Eminem's, Kayne West's or Justin Bieber's name in the billing [but not when giving out awards]."
"What truly inspired the writing of this letter was that this most recent show fed my suspicions," he continued. "As the show was coming to a close and just prior to presenting the award for Album of the Year, Arcade Fire performed 'Month of May' only to, surprise, win the category and, in a moment of sheer coincidence, happened to be prepared to perform 'Ready to Start.' Does the Grammys intentionally use artists for their celebrity, popularity and cultural appeal when they already know the winners and then program a show against this expectation?"
Stoute concludes by calling on artists to "demand that they change this system."
"And I imagine that next year there will be another televised super-close-up of an astonished front-runner as they come to the realization before a national audience... that he or she was used," he wrote.
"You are being called to task at this very moment, NARAS.
"And to all of the artists that attend the Grammys: Stop accepting the invitation to be the upset of the year and demand that this body upholds its mission for advocacy and support of artistry as culture evolves.
"Demand that they change this system and truly reflect and truly acknowledge your art."
At the time this article published, NARAS had not publicly responded to Stoute's ad. The full text of his letter follows, via the Huffington Post.