On the heels of Nicki Minaj questioning the Recording Academy’s placement of her song “Super Freaky Girl” in the Grammys’ pop category, as opposed to rap, comes another case of artists protesting a submission being knocked out of its chosen division … in this case, the children’s album category.
The album in question is “Arise Together,” a record featuring children’s artists, children’s choirs and other musicians, thought leaders and children living in war-torn Ukraine. The Grammy screening committee did not push it into a different genre category, but into the all-genre album of the year category — which the “Arise” producers could have chosen to additionally, originally submit their project in, but did not.
Reached for comment, Grammy representatives pointed to guidelines about screening committees’ choices, which read in part: “Entries in most Categories are screened by committees of genre experts to determine appropriate Category and Field placement. If a genre Screening Committee determines that a recording should be moved to another genre, the recording is forwarded and screened by that genre committee.”
However, the Academy’s guidelines don’t say anything about a recording being shifted from a genre category to a non-genre specific category, as this one was, putting it in contention against many more thousands of competing projects, including top projects from superstars, instead of the tiny field of kids’ albums.
Sources say it does occasionally occur that an album is judged as not being a good fit for any genre-specific home by the appropriate screening committees, and that when that happens, the recording in question is shifted to album of the year. It’s not clear what would happen if the project in question had already been submitted in that category as well.
“Arise Together” includes appearances by Julian Lennon, Dave Mason, Mahatma Gandhi’s Grandson Arun Gandhi, and is produced by Rupam Sarmah and Kevin Mackie. Themes on the album center around promoting inclusion, peace and diversity.
The album was submitted during the Grammy early online entry process. Correspondence between the Producers and the Academy verified that the album was entered correctly, the producers say. They then paid for a Grammy-edition Billboard ad, which they say was at the time had been verified by the Academy as a legitimate children’s music album entry. Two weeks later, after Billboard’s publication and one day before the membership voting began on Oct. 12, the producers received notice that the album had been removed from the children’s category and placed into the top overall category, which they believe is unprecedented and out of context for a children’s album.
An individual track from the album, “Children of the World,” featuring Lennon and Mason, was entered in — and accepted into — the category of best global music performance.
The record, musician Alex Otey explained, is built to help the children in Ukraine in a few ways: the Ukraine children performed on it — for example, an across-the-ocean duet on the empowering “Go, Me” with vocalist Kimberly Witkowski — recognizing their talents and acknowledging their situation in a time of war. Proceeds go to the One Little Finger Foundation (501c3), currently helping families and kids impacted by violence. Proceeds from Arise Together go to help kids globally and include helping kids in Ukraine financially for medical care due to mental and physical trauma.
“I question the entrance and the way the albums are judged in their categories,” Elci tells Variety. “I question this because by the guidelines of the Grammys, it would appear with our album they violated their own guideline. Something is not right. So, I question this entrance process. It doesn’t make sense to me. The secret committee — who is on it? What if there is an issue? We should have a right to know. There is a lack of transparency in this process. The Grammys have been slowly trying to fix it, but they don’t completely go all the way with it.”
According to the Grammy Awards guidelines: “The screening committee is expected to consider the artist’s intent as part of the decision-making process. In cases where a Screening Committee is unsure whether to move the recording to another genre, the artist’s intent (as indicated by the category in which the recording was initially entered) should be considered as the deciding factor in the appropriate Category placement.”
“Is Nicki Minaj right? Are competing artists being encouraged to knock each other out of the competition by snitching on each other and wielding power behind closed doors?” asked Mackie in a statement. “The Arise Together team is calling for transparency. Who is on these committees and why is this type of unethical cut-throat behavior allowed to continue within the most prestigious music awards program in the world? In this case, the children lose.”
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