• Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020
Creative director Justin Hori returns to Squeak E. Clean Studios
Justin Hori

International creative audio network Squeak E. Clean Studios has brought Justin Hori on board as creative director out of the Chicago office,  marking his return to the company. A talented composer, Hori has developed a knack for crafting poignant, contemporary audio stylings for branded content, crafting original music for award-winning projects with such clients as Apple, Reebok, Adidas, Volkswagen and Budweiser, among others. 

His earlier tour of duty at Squeak E. Clean saw him serve as creative director for five years, creating tracks like the famous “Da Diddy Da” for Apple’s 2018 iPad campaign, and the anthem for Adidas’ 2016 “Your Future is not Mine,” which earned him a Silver at the Clio Music Awards and the coveted Cannes Gold Lion for “Best Use of Original Music.” Other notable wins for the spot included D&AD Pencils, The One Show Awards, and additional Clio and AICP Award wins. 

Squeak E. Clean Studios co-executive creative director Sam Spiegel described Hori as “a tremendous talent” and “a great person to work with.”

Hori said he’s enthused over the prospects of collaborating creatively with Spiegel and the team again, sharing, “Squeak E. Clean Studios has such an artist-driven culture and that helps keep a fresh approach to my work, both within and outside of advertising.”

Hori was steeped in the Chicago music scene early on, starting as a DJ at 13 in hip-hop and underground electronica before taking his first part-time job slinging records at the legendary Gramaphone Records. After studying music theory and composition at Columbia College--gathering an extensive education and client base for future projects--he cut his teeth with stints at Comtrack and Comma Music, eventually moving to open their Los Angeles office. He returns to Squeak E. Clean Studios after expanding Human Worldwide into the Chicago market.

Hori is currently scoring the upcoming dark comedy Big Gold Brick, his first independently-scored feature film, which stars Andy Garcia, Lucy Hale, Megan Fox and Oscar Isaac. The reunion also sets the stage for future collaborations outside of adland for Hori with Spiegel, whose first full-length album in 10 years, “Random Shit From the Internet Era,” will be out on April 5 via Spectrophonic Sound.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020
Label: Rapper Pop Smoke slain in Hollywood Hills shooting
A police officer guards outside a Hollywood Hills home where a fatal shooting occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

An up-and-coming rapper known as Pop Smoke was fatally shot during a break-in early Wednesday at a Hollywood Hills home, his label said.

"We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke," Republic Records said in a statement. "Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together."

Los Angeles police did not immediately confirm the identification,and have not announced any arrests. 

Police officers found a victim shortly before 5 a.m. after responding to a 911 call from someone who reported intruders including one armed with a handgun were breaking in, said Capt. Steve Lurie. 

Public listings show that the home is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter of singer John Mellencamp and star of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." 

In an Instagram post Wednesday morning, Teddi Mellencamp said "we were informed by a 3rd party leasing and management company overseeing a rental home we own in Los Angeles that a shooting had taken place at the property. Foremost, we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to the family and loved ones affected by this tragic loss of life." 

Mellencamp said she and her husband were not aware of any further details beyond what they have learned through media reports.

Police said the 911 call came from "back East" and reported the break-in was occurring at a friend's home. The victim was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Several people who were in the house were detained and then released, Lurie said. 

"We're just getting started in this investigation," he said. 

Pop Smoke's legal name was Bashar Barakah Jackson. He was 20.

Chance The Rapper said in a tweet: "Rest Up Pop Smoke, you were too young. God Bless and comfort your family."

From Brooklyn, New York, Pop Smoke came onto the rap scene in 2018 and broke out last spring with "Welcome to the Party" a gangsta anthem where he brags about shootings, killings and drugs. It was a huge sensation that even drew the attention of Nicki Minaj, who dropped her own verse on a successful remix of the song.

Earlier this month he released the album "Meet the Woo 2," which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow up to his first official release," Meet the Woo," last July. He also had the popular hit "Gatti" with Travis Scott and Jackboys and "Dior."

In an interview that ran on Rolling Stone's website last week, Pop Smoke said that he used a freestyle lyrical method. 

"I never wrote (down) anything," he told Rolling Stone. "It's all up my head. Everything that I be writing, everything that I be saying, when it comes to these types of songs, just be so natural. Just how I be feeling. However, some songs I do write, and you'll know the ones that I write, 'cause you'll feel it."

Pop Smoke named fellow New York rapper 50 Cent as one of his influences and on Twitter, the multiplatinum entertainer memorialized him: "R.I.P to my man Pop Smoke, No sympathy for winners. God bless him."

Minaj also posted her sympathies with a photo of Pop Smoke on her Instagram. "The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop," she wrote.

The death comes about 11 months after rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in Los Angeles, and on a day when the man charged with killing him, Eric R. Holder, appeared in court for a hearing. Holder, who has pleaded not guilty, is expected to go to trial by April. 

In July, up-and-coming Philadelphia rapper Bankroll Gambino, 21, was shot and killed during a music video shoot there. And in June 2018, 20-year-old rapper XXXTentacion was gunned down while leaving a Miami motorcycle shop.

John Antczak in Los Angeles and Nekesa Mumbi Moody in New York contributed to this story.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020
Lewis Capaldi, Dave win at politically tinged Brit Awards
Dave performs on stage on stage at the Brit Awards 2020 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi and soulful London rapper Dave took top prizes Tuesday at the U.K. music industry's Brit Awards, where Dave brought some political edge to the glossy talent parade.

Billie Eilish and Tyler the Creator were among the international winners at the awards, which have been criticized for a dearth of female nominees.

The 21-year-old south Londoner Dave won the coveted album of the year prize for the self-reflective "Psychodrama."

Accepting the trophy, he gave a shout out to other young people from Britain's cities with big aspirations.

"All my young kings and queens that are chasing their dreams, I'm no different from you," he said.

Capaldi's U.K. and U.S. chart-topper "Someone You Loved" was named song of the year, and Capaldi also won the best new artist prize during the ceremony at London's O2 Arena,

Grime artist Stormzy was named British male artist of the year, the second time he has won the award. Singer-songwriter Mabel, daughter of musician Neneh Cherry, was named U.K. female solo artist of the year.

Mabel said on the red carpet that it was "such a lovely sort of full-circle moment" to perform at the Brits 30 years after her mother did the same.

Previously an unpredictable and sometimes ramshackle event, the Brits have been refashioned in recent years as a slick showcase for British talent. This year organizers culled several awards categories to make more room for performances, including turns by Capaldi, Mabel and Harry Styles.

Lizzo got the audience worked up with her Grammy-winning anthem "Truth Hurts," while Stormzy brought on Nigerian singer Burna Boy and scores of extras for a medley of hits.

Dave held the audience rapt with a piano-accompanied, slow-burning rendition of "Black" in which he accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of racism, contrasted "how the news treats Kate versus how they treated Meghan" and paid homage to Jack Merritt, the young prisoner-rehabilitation worker killed in a knife attack near London Bridge last year. by a radicalized ex-inmate he had been helping.

The award for international female artist went to Eilish, who won five Grammy Awards last month.

Comedian Jack Whitehall, the evening's host, quipped that the 18-year-old superstar was "the only teenager in the world who makes Greta Thunberg look lazy."

Eilish, who has spoken off her mental health struggles, told the audience: "I have felt very hated recently."

"When I was on the stage and I saw you guys all smiling at me it genuinely made me want to cry and I want to cry now," she said. 

Eilish gave the first public performance of her James Bond theme song "No Time to Die" alongside her brother and co-writer, Finneas O'Connell, composer Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr, former guitarist for The Smiths. 

Marr said the choice of Eilish to write and perform the theme to the next Bond thriller was "a very cool and smart choice."

"It would have been very easy to do something that was very obvious. I think, with Bond," he said.

Singer Celeste was named rising star, Foals was declared band of the year, and the award for international male solo artist went to Tyler the Creator. He sardonically thanked former Prime Minister Theresa May for banning him from entering Britain five years ago.

Septuagenarian rocker-turned-crooner Rod Stewart closed the show, accompanied by former Faces band mates Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones.

The awards have been criticized over the years for failing to reflect the diversity of British music and being slow to embrace the emergence of genres including home-grown British grime and hip-hop.

In 2017, the academy of more than 1,000 music industry professionals that chooses Brits winners was expanded in an attempt to make it more gender balanced and diverse. Last year female nominees outnumbered men for only the second time in the event's 40-year history. 

But this year only four nominations out of a possible 25 in categories that are not gender-specific feature women. No female performers were included on the shortlists for best group or album of the year.

  • Friday, Feb. 14, 2020
Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel" underscores changing face of country music
In this May 25, 2018 file photo, Darius Rucker performs on NBC's Today show at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. The Country singer couldn’t quite believe it when he was surprised this week with the news that his song “Wagon Wheel” was certified eight times platinum, making it one of the top five most popular country singles ever. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, Rucker stopped by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to his items in an exhibit, but his label, Universal Music Group Nashville, surprised him with a plaque featuring eight platinum-colored records. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- 

Country singer Darius Rucker couldn't quite believe it when he was surprised this week with the news that his song "Wagon Wheel" was certified eight times platinum, making it one of the top five most popular country singles ever. 

On Wednesday, Rucker stopped by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to see his items in an exhibit, but his label, Universal Music Group Nashville, surprised him with a plaque featuring eight platinum-colored records.

After repeating the word "Wow!" over and over, Rucker muttered to himself, "That can't be true," as he inspected the plaque in his hands. 

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, "Wagon Wheel" now joins other multiplatinum hits among country music's biggest songs in RIAA's 60-year history, including Taylor Swift's "Love Story," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise," and Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road."

"It's amazing to me because I came here to make country music, and I didn't expect success and I didn't expect to be on the radio," said Rucker, who had already had a highly successful rock career as lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish.

He joked at seeing his CMA new artist of the year trophy behind glass, noting it happened for him when he was in his 40s. But the South Carolina-native also represents the changing face of country music, as one of two black artists among the RIAA's top country singles.

"Lil Nas X being up there, it just shows that country music is starting to open its doors and broaden its horizons and realize there's a lot of different faces, a lot of different colors and a lot of different things to country music," Rucker said.

It's another interesting chapter in a song with a unique history. Ketch Secor, lead singer of string band Old Crow Medicine Show, first encountered the song when he heard a Bob Dylan bootleg that contained an outtake of a song called "Rock Me, Mama" that was mostly just a chorus and a muddled verse. Secor wrote verses about being homesick for the South and made it a signature song for the popular folk band in the early 2000s. 

For years, the foot-stomping banjo and fiddle song "Wagon Wheel" was popular on the live circuits. Then Rucker heard a country style cover version at his child's school.

Rucker's version, released in 2013 and featuring backing vocals from Lady Antebellum, went to the top of the country chart for multiple weeks, earned him a Grammy for best country solo performance. 

These days, he can barely get past the first chord of the song before fans start cheering. 

"You hit that first chord and people just lose their minds, cause by the time we get to the third chord they know exactly what it is," Rucker said. 

  • Friday, Feb. 7, 2020
"Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood," "Queen & Slim," "Bombshell" Among Feature Winners At Guild of Music Supervisors Awards
Burt Bacharach received the Icon Award at the 10th annual Guild of Music Supervisors Awards in Los Angeles on Friday (2/6) night.

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, Queen & Slim, Waves, The Last Black Man In San Francisco and Bombshell took feature film honors at the Guild of Music Supervisors 10th annual award ceremony held last night (2/6) at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. 

Among the TV winners were Euphoria, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Better Call Saul and the telefilms Native Son and The Dirt (which tied in the TV movie category for best music supervision).

The award honor outstanding achievement in the craft of Music Supervision in movies, television, games, advertising, and trailers. Over 1,000 attendees joined the Guild to celebrate the 31 crafts makers, who were recognized for their musical accomplishments in 2019. Industry music legends Burt Bacharach and Bob Hunka crowned the evening as Bacharach received this year’s Icon Award, and Hunka received the prestigious Legacy Award. 
President of the Guild of Music Supervisors Joel C. High said, “Over the past 10 years, the Guild of Music Supervisors Awards has grown into an important fixture in the Hollywood award circle. We are overjoyed to celebrate with our amazing nominees and winners and to have so many industry luminaries join us as performers, presenters, and guests in the audience. Looking into the future, we hope that these awards will garner more attention from other institutions such as The Academy. To another decade of outstanding music supervision!”
Three-time Academy Award and two-time Golden Globe-winning songwriter and composer Bacharach received the Guild of Music Supervisors Icon Award to honor his creative achievements in storytelling for films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alfie, Arthur, Austin Powers, and more. On stage with director Jay Roach (Bombshell, Austin Powers), Bacharach mentioned, “The films that I’ve done I got very INTO the film. Never used a cliptrack; I memorized the film and wrote to what I saw.” 
Legendary country singer Emmylou Harris gave a surprise guest performance before she presented the Legacy Award to her longtime friend Hunka. His career spans managing a Symphony Orchestra (Edmonton), a mobile recording studio (Enactron), an independent record production company that counted Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash among its clients (Happy Sack Productions), and Dolly Parton’s music publishing company (Velvet Apple Music). During his acceptance speech Hunka commented, “My philosophy--how I sold it was: we can use the ear to fool the eye. The [big film scenes] will actually look better if there’s big music underneath. THAT is the power of music in film and TV.”

Here’s a full category-by-category rundown of the evening’s winners:
Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Over $25 Million
Mary Ramos - Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood 

Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Under $25 Million

Kier Lehman - Queen & Slim 

Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Under $10 Million
Meghan Currier, Randall Poster – Waves 

Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Under $5 Million
Terri D’Ambrosio - The Last Black Man In San Francisco 

Best Song Written and/or Recorded for a Film
“One Little Soldier” from Bombshell 
Writer: Regina Spektor
Performed By: Regina Spektor
Music Supervisor: Evyen Klean

Best Music Supervision - Television Drama
Adam Leber, Jen Malone - Euphoria - Season 1 

Best Music Supervision - Television Comedy or Musical
Robin Urdang - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Season 2 

Best Music Supervision - Reality Television
Jill Meyers - Songland - Season 1 

Best Music Supervision - Television Movie 
***TIE*** (2 WINNERS)
Howard Paar - Native Son 
Joe Rudge, Chris Swanson - The Dirt 

Best Song Written and/or Recorded for Television
“Something Stupid” from Better Call Saul 
Songwriter(s): C. Carson Parks
Artist: Lola Marsh
Program: Better Call Saul
Episode: #407 “Something Stupid”
Music Supervisor: Thomas Golubić


Best Music Supervision in a Documentary
Tracy McKnight – Halston 

Best Music Supervision in a Docuseries
Rudy Chung, Jonathan Christiansen - Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men 


Best Music Supervision in a Trailer
Anny Colvin (Jax) - Joker Teaser 

Best Music Supervision in Advertising (Sync)
David Taylor, Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Wellbelove - Apple iPhone “Color Flood” 

Best Music Supervision in Advertising (Original Music)
David Taylor, Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Wellbelove - Apple Watch “Hokey Pokey” 


Best Music Supervision in a Video Game
Cybele Pettus, Raphaella Lima - FIFA 20 

  • Monday, Jan. 27, 2020
Mark Lanza to succeed Tom McCarthy as president of Motion Picture Sound Editors
Mark Lanza
STUDIO CITY, Calif. -- 

The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) has elected Mark Lanza as president. Lanza is an award-winning supervising sound editor and currently serves as the organization’s treasurer. His two-year term as president begins in January. He succeeds Tom McCarthy.

Also elected to the MPSE board are Steve Urban as secretary and Jeremy Gordon as treasurer. They join continuing board members Bernard Weiser (VP) and Christopher Reeves (sergeant-at-arms).

Lanza seeks to build on the progress MPSE has made in recent years in growing its membership and expanding its public programs. “I want to continue to develop ties to other industry organizations,” Lanza said. “MPSE has co-sponsored several events with the Cinema Audio Society and we hope to do more as we share common interests and priorities. I am eager to expand our international membership. Our ranks have been growing, especially in Europe and India. I would also like to improve our outreach by hosting more sound events, and through increased use of streaming and social media.”

Outgoing president McCarthy notes that MPSE has made great strides over the past four years. “I am proud of the board’s successes, especially its role in the development of the EIPMA mentoring program and our monthly Sound Advice events,” he said. “Mark Lanza has been an integral member of the MPSE board for many years and will take our organization to new and higher levels. Our current board is extremely strong with many newcomers who are bringing innovative ideas that will make MPSE a bigger and stronger organization.”

Currently based at Sony Pictures Studios, Lanza has been a sound professional for 30 years and is credited on more than 250 feature films and television shows. He was part of the Academy Award-winning sound teams for Born on the Fourth of July and JFK. He won an HPA Award for NBC’s Grimm and an MPSE Golden Reel Award for Amazon’s Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. He has 30 additional MPSE Gold Reel Award nominations for projects including Homeland, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax and Coma. Recent projects include Manhunt: Deadly Games, On Becoming a God in Central Florida and Sneaky Pete.

A member of MPSE since 1993, Lanza previously served the organization as secretary and vice president before being elected treasurer last year. “I have always been proud of the work of MPSE and impressed with the quality of its membership, especially those serving in leadership positions,” he said. “It’s a privilege to serve with my colleagues and rewarding to help the organization grow. I would especially love to thank outgoing president Tom McCarthy for elevating the MPSE to a new level over these last four years and setting me up for success. I look forward to working with the strongest board I have seen in my time with the organization.”

  • Monday, Jan. 27, 2020
Family affair: Billie Eilish, Finneas win big at Grammys
Billie Eilish, left, and Finneas O'Connell pose in the press room with the awards for best album, best engineered album and best pop vocal album for "We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?," best song and record for "Bad Guy," best new artist and best producer, non-classical at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The edgy, avant-pop album that siblings Billie Eilish and Finneas created in a small bedroom made a big splash at the 2020 Grammy Awards, winning 11 honors for the musical family.

"When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" — created in the musicians' Los Angeles home — helped Eilish win the top four honors, including album, song and record of the year, along with best new artist. The 18-year-old is the youngest artist to achieve the feat and the first to do so since Christopher Cross did in 1981.

Finneas — who co-wrote, produced and engineered the album, walked away as Sunday's top winner with six. Eilish won five honors.

"We didn't write a speech for this because we didn't make this album to win a Grammy. We didn't think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy — whatever that means — and we stand up here confused and grateful," Finneas said onstage.

Together, they also won best pop vocal album, while Finneas' individual honors included producer of the year (non-classical) and best engineered album (non-classical). 

"This is my first Grammys. I never thought this would happen in my whole life," Eilish said. "I genuinely wanna say I am so grateful and I only wanna say that I am so grateful." 

"This is to all the kids who are making music in the bedroom today — you're going to get one of these," Finneas added. 

The bedroom where they created magic was brought to life when they hit the stage and performed "When the Party's Over," which featured Finneas on keys and Eilish singing in a soft, pitch perfect tone.

Los Angeles, where the show was held, had a central theme at the show Sunday: hometown heroes Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant, a global icon, were honored and celebrated at the show.

The Grammys kicked off with a performance in honor of Bryant, who died hours before the awards along with his daughter and seven others. And later in the show Hussle's collaborators and friends, including DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG, gave an all-star tribute to the man who died last year. 

Hussle also posthumously won his first pair of Grammys on Sunday.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay introduced the performance, which featured band players, background dancers and Legend wearing traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean clothing in honor of Hussle's African roots. Mill performed a new song called "Letter to Nipsey" while others joined together for "Higher," which won best rap/sung performance. 

"This is for Nipsey Hussle. This is for hip-hop," said DJ Khaled, who collaborated on the song with Legend and Hussle, whose family stood onstage. 

"We all love him. We all miss him. It's terrible that we had to lose him so early," Legend said. "We've seen some tragedy today and last year ... let's hold each other tight." 

The show — which took place at the Staples Center, Bryant's old stomping ground — began with a touching, emotional and a cappella performance of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by host Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men. 

"Los Angeles, America and the world-wide world lost a hero," Keys said, adding that the audience was "heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built." 

"Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna ... are in our spirits, they're in our hearts, they're in prayers, they're in this building," she said. "Take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families." 

Before the show officially honored Bryant, Lizzo performed the songs "Truth Hurts" and "Cuz I Love You," saying at the top of the show: "Tonight is for Kobe." 

Lizzo won three honors, including best pop solo performance for "Truth Hurts" and two R&B awards.

"Hold on one second," she said, catching her breath. "Thank you to the academy. This is really (expletive) sick." 

Lizzo was among the mix of newcomers and well-known acts who reached their goals of winning their first-ever Grammy Awards on Sunday, which also included Tanya Tucker, J. Cole, DJ Khaled, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michelle Obama, Sara Bareilles, Rosalía, 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator.

"To my mother, you did a great job raising this guy," Tyler, who won best rap album, said to his mom, who was onstage and crying by side. 

More crying took place Sunday.

Demi Lovato, who has mostly taken a break from the public since focusing on her recovery after reportedly overdosing in July 2018, gave a stirring, vocally top-notch performance that earned her a standing ovation. She was so emotional that she had to restart the song as a teardrop ran down her cheek. 

Camila Cabello's performance of "First Man" — a song dedicated to her father — also induced tears. Cabello walked off the stage to her dad's seat to finish singing the song in front of him, while he teared up. Audience members were emotional, too, including Gwen Stefani. 

Ariana Grande had a lengthy performance — probably to make up for the drama that surrounded her axed performance last year. Run DMC joined forces with Aerosmith to rock the Grammys stage, while Usher, Sheila E. and FKA twigs paid tribute to Prince. 

Lil Nas X brought the story of "Old Town Road" to life by performing alongside the artists who helped the song stay at No. 1 for 19 weeks through various remixes, including BTS, Mason Ramsey, Diplo and the track's main co-star, Billy Ray Cyrus.

Veteran rapper Nas then joined Lil Nas X for a new song, shouting out Bryant at the end: "Kobe, we love you." 

A dark cloud loomed over ceremony since the Recording Academy announced it had put its recently hired CEO, Deborah Dugan, on administrative leave for misconduct. Dugan and her lawyers fired back at the academy, claiming that the awards show is rigged. 

But no mention of Dugan was directly made during the three-plus-hour show. 

  • Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020
Ousted Grammy chief suggests awards are tainted
This Nov. 14, 2019 file photo shows Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan at the 20th Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas. Dugan has fired back at the Recording Academy with a complaint claiming she was retaliated against after reporting she was subjected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination during her six-month tenure. Lawyers for Dugan, who the academy placed on administrative leave last week, filed a discrimination case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday. In the complaint, she claims she was subjected to sexual harassment from the academy’s general counsel. (Photo by Eric Jamison/Invision/AP, File)

The ousted head of the Grammy Awards says that music's biggest awards are tainted because of conflicts of interest that infect how certain songs and artists are nominated.

Nevertheless, Deborah Dugan said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday that she plans to watch the Grammys this weekend.

Dugan was fired only months into her job as head of the Recording Academy and this week filed an explosive complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission that alleged she was sexually harassed and that the music organization was a "boy's club" that favors friends. The academy, which has accused Dugan of misconduct, has said it has launched an investigation.

The personnel allegations had largely overshadowed Dugan's charges about the integrity of the Grammys' awards process — a huge problem given that its annual ceremony is set to be televised on CBS in three days.

"The system should be transparent and there are incidents of conflicts of interest that taint the results," Dugan said on ABC.

Her complaint charged that a "secret committee" that decides who gets Grammy nominations contains people with business and personal relationships with artists, and that they push their favorites ahead. The Grammy membership generally selects 20 potential nominees in categories and internal committees whittle those lists down to the five or seven eventual nominees.

She charged that an artist who was ranked 18th out of 20 in the initial song of the year process last year got a nomination and the artist was actually on the committee that decided the nominees. The same artist, who Dugan did not identify, is represented professionally by someone on the Recording Academy board.

Dugan suggested the conflict was behind two notable snubs in the category, of songs performed by Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran, although there has been some question about whether Grande had submitted her indelible hit, "Thank U, Next," for the award.

Brandi Carlile, Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga were among the nominees for this award, which was won by "This is America," performed by Childish Gambino.

In the category of jazz vocals, Dugan alleged that an artist nominated for an award participated in the nomination process. Again, she did not name the artist involved.

Overall, she said some 30 artists whose work was not chosen as a potential nominee by the Recording Academy membership were added to that list because they had personal or business relationships with people on the nomination committees or the Academy's board.

Dugan also said that nominations were handed out to songs or albums because the producer of the annual awards show wanted them to be performed on the show.

Producer Ken Ehrlich did not answer a message seeking a response to Dugan's allegations. 

Despite her charges, Dugan said she's watching Sunday because she worked very hard on the show and loves the artists who will be performing.

"I couldn't say more positive things about all of the nominations and everyone that performs," she said. "Oh, my God, I hate that I'm in this situation because I'd much rather be talking about the artists and their music."

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020
Ex-Grammys CEO Portnow says rape allegation "false and outrageous"
This Feb. 10, 2019 file photo shows then president and CEO of The Recording Academy Neil Portnow at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Portnow says a rape allegation against him aired in a complaint against the Recording Academy by his successor is “false and outrageous.” Portnow released a statement saying the academy during his tenure had conducted a thorough and independent investigation and he was “completely exonerated.” (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow said Wednesday that a rape allegation against him aired by his successor in a complaint against the Recording Academy is "false and outrageous."

Portnow released a statement saying that the academy conducted a thorough and independent investigation of the accusation and he was "completely exonerated."

His comment came a day after ousted academy CEO Deborah Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission asserting that she had been subjected to retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by an academy attorney and for calling out the "boys club" culture that pervades the institution.

The allegations were being exchanged during what is  usually a celebratory week of parties and special events leading up to Sunday's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

Dugan said she learned during her six-month stint as CEO that Portnow had been accused of rape by a foreign recording artist and academy member after a performance at Carnegie Hall. The artist was not named.

"This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me," Portnow said. "There was no basis for the allegations, and once again I deny them unequivocally."

Dugan's attorneys did not immediately comment on Portnow's statement.

Portnow, a 72-year-old former record label executive, did not seek an extension of his contract and left the CEO post last year after 17 years. He came under fire for saying women need to "step up" when asked backstage at the 2018 Grammy Awards why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast. Portnow again apologized for the comment on Wednesday.

Dugan also said in her EEOC complaint that she had been pressured to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 per year. Portnow said Wednesday that he never demanded such a fee.

Dugan was put on administrative leave last week, and the wide range of allegations she aired in her complaint, which also criticized the awards nomination process, put the academy on the defensive and threatened to throw the institution into tumult at its most important time of year.

In response to her filing, the academy said Dugan's complaints to a human resources executive in December about sexual harassment and other issues came only after she was accused of abusive behavior toward the executive assistant she inherited from Portnow, which Dugan denied.

The academy said in a statement Tuesday that it "immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan's potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations." Those probes have yet to be completed.

The academy said its first loyalty was to its artists.

"We regret that music's biggest night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan's actions," it said.

Dugan said Joel Katz, an influential music attorney and the academy's general counsel, tried to woo her romantically and attempted to kiss her against her wishes during a dinner last year. Katz issued a statement late Tuesday saying he "categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening."

"Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the board of trustees of the academy, and others, were dining," read the statement from Katz's attorney, Howard Weitzman.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020
Grammys CEO says she was ousted after reporting harassment
This Nov. 13, 2019 file photo shows Recording Academy President Deborah Dugan at the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala honoring Juanes in Las Vegas. Dugan has fired back at the Recording Academy with a complaint claiming she was retaliated against after reporting she was subjected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination during her six-month tenure. Lawyers for Dugan, who the academy placed on administrative leave last week, filed a discrimination case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday. In the complaint, she claims she was subjected to sexual harassment from the academy’s general counsel. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

The ousted Grammys CEO fired back at the Recording Academy on Tuesday, alleging that she was removed after complaining about sexual harassment and pay disparities and for calling out conflicts of interest in the nomination process for music's most most prestigious awards.

Lawyers for Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave last week after six months in the job, filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just five days before the Grammy Awards. She alleged she was sexually harassed by the academy's general counsel, Joel Katz.

Dugan detailed the harassment and other issues in an email to an academy human resources executive on Dec. 22, 2019, according to the complaint.

The complaint also states that Dugan was paid less than former academy CEO Neil Portnow, who left the post last year, and that she was also subject to retaliation for refusing to hire Portnow as a consultant for nearly half his former salary.

Portnow had been criticized for saying women need to "step up" when he was asked backstage at the 2018 show why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast. Portnow called his comments a "poor choice of words" and later said he chose not to seek an extension on his contract.

A filing with the Internal Revenue Service shows that Portnow was paid $1.74 million in 2016. Dugan said she was pressured to hire him as a consultant for $750,000 annually. Dugan's compensation was not revealed in Tuesday's filing.

Last week, the academy said Dugan was put on leave following an allegation of misconduct by a senior leader at the organization. In the complaint, Dugan's attorneys called that accusation false, saying there was no mistreatment and the senior leader was the executive assistant she inherited from Portnow.

In her Dec. 22 email, Dugan called the academy "a boys' club."

While trying to resolve a lawsuit against the academy, Dugan said one of the claimants characterized the organization's leadership as "a boys' club" that "put their financial interest above the mission."

"At the time, I didn't want to believe it," said Dugan, the former CEO of Bono's (RED) charity organization. "But now after 5 months of being exposed to the behavior and circumstances outlined here, I have come to suspect she is right."

The academy said in a statement that it "immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan's potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations." Both of those investigations are ongoing.

Dugan, according to the statement, was placed on administrative leave after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization.

"Our loyalty will always be to the 21,000 members of the Recording Academy. We regret that music's biggest night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan's actions, and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible."

An email from Katz said the attorney was out sick. Katz's firm said it had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on its allegations.

In the complaint, Dugan alleges that in May 2019, when she had accepted the CEO position but had not begun her work, she had dinner with Katz, the academy's general counsel, alone at his request in Laguna Niguel, California, on the eve of a meeting of the academy board.

There, Katz acted "extremely inappropriately," according to the complaint, calling Dugan "baby," and making "an obvious and unwelcome attempt to 'woo' Ms. Dugan into a romantic relationship."

The complaint states Dugan made it clear she wasn't interested and was in a relationship, but he still attempted to kiss her at the end of the night. Dugan "quickly turned away, repulsed." Katz continued the harassment in subsequent interactions, the complaint alleges.

It also contends Katz and his firm were paid inappropriately by the academy, and that his role representing both the academy and artists who are up for Grammys was a conflict of interest.

The complaint is also critical of the Grammys voting process, specifically its use of nomination committees to select the final list of nominees, which can range from five to eight depending on the category.

"Rather than promoting a transparent nomination process, the Board has decided to shroud the process in secrecy and ultimately controls, in large part, who is nominated for Grammy Awards," the complaint read.

For the top four awards, committees select the final nominees from the top 20 contenders, based off ballots from its voting members. But the complaint said the committee members sometimes include artists who did not make it in the top 20 because of their personal or business relationships with those artists.

"This year, 30 artists that were not selected by the membership were added to the possible nomination list," the complaint read.

The complaint also claimed that one of the song-of-the-year nominees — who placed 18th in the top 20 — sat on the committee deciding the song-of-the-year nominees and is represented by a member of the academy board.

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