Each and every year, the Grammys nominations announcement causes outrage over at least one major snub. This year’s was immediately clear: Somehow, Fiona Apple’s wildly popular and acclaimed record Fetch the Bolt Cutters was not listed for Album of the Year. Hadn’t Shameika made it clear that Apple has beyond proved her potential? And hadn’t Metacritic found that it was the best reviewed album of the year?
Apple has long been too cool to care about traditional industry standards of success. But to her surprise, she was actually (initially) pleased with her Best Rock Performance nomination, which helped make history: It was the first all of the category’s nominees were women. “I immediately had this feeling: I wish I was in a room with these ladies and we could celebrate,” Apple said in a new interview with the Guardian. “I felt really nice for a second.” She even made a t-shirt with each of their names on it, planning to send a selfie to her most prolific fan site.
Instead, she ended up throwing the shirt away. While Apple knew her celebratory feeling was genuine, the more she thought about it, what seemed like progress was actually the Recording Academy’s usual hypocrisy in disguise. “I felt like this is exactly what they want me to do: It’s better now! I got nominated! And it’s all women this year and the Grammys are great!,”the singer said. “I keep going back to them putting Kesha on stage like, ‘We believe you,’” she continued, referring to how Kesha, a victim, was made to bear the weight of making the 2018 show political.
After all, Apple noted, one of this year’s Song of the Year nominees was actually produced by “fucking Tyson Trax”—the pseudonym of Kesha’s alleged abuser, Dr. Luke. It was enough to make Apple draw a comparison to her infamous takedown of the industry’s award complex in 1997: “Not to go back to that word, but it’s bullshit.”
But the issue is much, much bigger than Kesha. Apple hasn’t forgotten that we still don’t have the full story of then Recording Academy President Deborah Dugan was placed on administrative leave just a few days before this year’s show. (Dugan later sued the Recording Academy, accusing it of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, and corruption.)
“I’m waiting to hear more about what Deborah Dugan has to say because that all reeks to me,” Apple said. “When you hire somebody and they raise questions and then they get fired? There’s a lot of things that she brought up that make it so that I can’t vet that situation and I don’t really wanna go there and support it.”
Dugan’s appointment was a rare real sign of progress for the Grammys. It’s unclear how successful she would have been in changing things up, as her tenure only lasted a matter of months. But Dugan was least an improvement to her predecessor, Neil Portnow—the one who defended the Grammys’ awarding a single woman earlier this year by saying women need to “step up.”