Recording Academy Boss Walks Back ‘Step Up’ Comment: ‘We Must Welcome, Mentor, and Empower’ Women

Neil Portnow speaks onstage at the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Fleetwood Mac at the Radio City Music Hall on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow says he regrets saying women need to “step up” to win Grammys, after the Sunday’s ceremony saw male artists take home an overwhelming majority of the major awards.

“Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards,” Portnow said in a statement. “Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.”

“Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it,” Portnow’s Grammys comment statement read.

Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, speaks onstage at the 60th annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in New York.  Sayles/Invision/AP)

“I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone,” the statement concluded.

Portnow’s comments caused a stir after 21-year-old singer Alessia Cara became the only woman to win a major Grammy award, (she won honors for the Best New Artist).

The hashtag #GrammysSoMale trended on social media and veteran pop super-star Pink blasted Portnow’s initial response to the show’s male-dominated awards criticism.

“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’—women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this,” Pink wrote in letter she posted to Twitter.

“When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair,” Pink wrote.

Perception problems plaguing Portnow and the Recording Academy, however, extended far beyond who did and who didn’t win award on Sunday night, as the politics-heavy Grammy’s suffered massive decline in ratings. Indeed, the CBS show shed more than eight million viewers from a year ago, Variety reports.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson

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