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Grammy Chief Backs Off of Comment About Women Artists Needing to 'Step Up' Amidst Criticism

Kesha performs at the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018. Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic

The president and CEO of the Recording Academy is retreating from comments he made Sunday night about the scarcity of women Grammy winners as criticism from artists mounts.

Neil Portnow says he “wasn’t as articulate” as he should have been when he said female artists and executives need to “step up.”

That quip prompted a quick backlash from artists, including Pink and Katy Perry, who said women have been “stepping up” in the music industry for years.

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Early Tuesday, Portnow issued a statement to Variety walking back from his comments, though stopping short of an apology.

Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards,” he said. “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.

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.

Portnow’s comments were especially upsetting as they followed an uplifting performance by Kesha and stirring speech by Janelle Monáe at Sunday’s awards that were a powerful recognition of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

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