Grammy Chief Harvey Mason Jr. Celebrates Big Female Nominations but Calls Snubs ‘Disappointing’

This year’s Grammy noms are a refreshingly diverse look at the past year of music, with a huge number of female artists and racially and musically diverse nominees in the leading categories (see the full list of 2024 Grammy nominations here).

Yet as the past few years in particular have shown, leading the Recording Academy, the Grammys’ parent organization, is no day at the beach — having to build consensuses and move the organization forward while making sure it accurately reflects current trends in music and business, in an art form that is almost entirely subjective. Harvey Mason Jr., a veteran songwriter-producer-drummer who has led the organization for nearly four years, has tackled many of the Academy’s challenges head-on and made many changes along the way — and as he’s the first to admit, there’s always plenty more to do.

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Variety caught up with him during a lightning round of interviews to discuss this year’s nominations and what they mean.

When there’s been a big look for female artists in past nominations, it’s usually been one dominant artist in a single year — Taylor, Beyonce, Adele, Brandi Carlile. But this year there are tons of them.

I have to say that this representation for female artists is not only exciting, but also [impressive] because so many different genres are being represented across our ballot.

Yeah, in additional to the top categories, SZA is nominated in both melodic rap and traditional R&B, Olivia Rodrigo is in both pop and rock.

That shows that people are voting for the music as opposed to voting for people. The people in those genres’ [screening committees] are really experts, listening closely and evaluating the music. So if an artist has nominations across different genres, that means the people that work in those fields really respect it.

We’re all surprised and impressed with Victoria Monet’s turnout.

Well, she had an incredible year with just amazing music. You just never know what’s gonna capture the year in the zeitgeist.

However, it seems like Latin music still isn’t getting the look it deserves. Do you think there’s a perception that the voting body feels it’s covered by the Latin Grammys rather than the main show?

It’s an exciting time for Latin music, for sure, but I’m not pleased with the turnout. There’s been incredible Latin music made the last few years, and I still believe we have more work to do with the Latin community at the Academy. The Latin Grammys are doing incredible work, and we at the [national Recording] Academy have to continue to do outreach and make sure we’re reflective of what’s happening.

Why are there only three nominees in the musica urbana album category but seven in folk? How does that work?

If there are ties we will add additional names — [folk] was supposed to be five, but there were a couple of ties. And in the category of urbana there were not as many submissions, and there are rules in our bylaws that say [the final nominations] depend on the number of submissions, so that was just a function of the rules.

Another sore spot: Morgan Wallen, one of the most commercially successful and controversial artists in the past year, was shut out again. Whenever it seems like there could be a deliberate snub, as the leader of the organization, do you sometimes feel you have to say, “Come on, we have to be fair here”?

Well, I always believe that we’ve got to be fair and we have to be honest — I think that goes without saying. But music is subjective, and when you’re evaluating it, a lot goes into that. Our voters, I believe, take the task very seriously. I think they generally do a really good job, doing the work of listening and making decisions based on the music, but it is subjective. And when it comes to snubs, it absolutely disappoints me — I’m affected by it, for sure, because I’m a creator and a musician. And I know what it feels like to put all your heart and your soul into a project that you really believe that you believe is the best work. So it disappoints me, I always want to make sure we’re being representative and we’re being accurate. But it’s very subjective.

Still, I have to say this is one of my favorite days of the year because it really exemplifies what the Academy is all about. We’re here to serve, lift up and educate people, fight for their rights, and shine a light on excellence, especially with artists that have never been nominated before.

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