While she wasn’t asked about it directly, Fiona Apple, who is up for three 2021 Grammy Awards, used her interview with The Guardian to slam the Recording Academy for its treatment of ousted president/CEO Deborah Dugan and its nomination of hitmaker Dr. Luke, who has been embroiled in lawsuit with singer Kesha over unproven sexual assault allegations for year.
Dugan brought legal action against the Recording Academy after her sudden ouster just days before the 2020 awards, which is ongoing.
“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.”
Among the multiple allegations in Dugan’s legal complaint, including sexual harassment, excessive legal fees to connected law firms and a “boys’ club” culture, she made very pointed claims about deep corruption the Grammys’ nomination process, alleging that Recording Academy board members use their positions to advance artists with whom they have relationships, among many other charges. Those allegations resurfaced last month after The Weeknd, whose hits dominated the past year, received no nominations for the 2021 awards. The Academy has claimed that the award-nominating committees, whose identity is kept secret, made that decision fair and square in their pursuit to recognize “excellence,” although many comparatively little-known performers received major nominations.
Elsewhere in the interview, she took shots at Dr. Luke — a.k.a. Lukas Gottwald, who is nominated for his work with Doja Cat under the new pseudonym Tyson Trax. While he has defeated nearly all of the Kesha-related lawsuits against him, and has ongoing defamation and breach of contract cases against the singer, the allegations have led him to take a low public profile and work under different names. While the allegations have deeply damaged his public profile, they’ve had little impact on his businesses and musical activity, as detailed by Variety earlier this year.
“They had [Kesha] up there singing ‘Praying’ and now they’re gonna go: ‘Oh, but it’s Tyson Trax!’” Apple said, referencing Kesha’s performance at the 2018 Grammys of a song that is clearly directed at Dr. Luke.
While Apple is among all-female nominees in the Rock Performance category, she says her initial excitement over that feat was overshadowed by the multiple controversies that have plagued the Recording Academy in recent years, from former head Neil Portnow’s 2018 comment that women need to “step up” to advance in the industry to this year’s shocking exclusion of The Weeknd from any nominations. Apple said she nearly send a fan site a photo over herself wearing a shirt with the female nominees’ names on it, but changed her mind.
“I threw it away,” Apple said. “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!’ I keep going back to them putting Kesha on stage like, ‘We believe you’ — and I believe her — then two years later, fucking Tyson Trax.
“Not to go back to that word, but it’s bullshit,” she continued. “The feeling of wanting to celebrate with these women was genuine. But I should have that feeling anyway. I don’t know if anybody who’s nominated can help having the thought: What would I do If I won? My vision was that I would just get up there with a sledgehammer and I wouldn’t say anything, I would take the Grammy and smash it into enough pieces to share and I would invite all the ladies up. My second thought was I wonder if I can get all these ladies to boycott this shit because of Dr. Luke.”
Reps for the Recording Academy did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.
Read the full interview here.