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Around this time last year, Kanye West hopped on Twitter to unleashed 22 tweets of fury aimed at the Grammys. "I feel the Grammy awarding system is way off and completely out of touch," he wrote, while later adding, "If I'm not at the show next year then there is no show." Well, fast forward to this past Sunday at the 59th annual Grammy Awards, the show went on despite Kanye's absence. Come to think about it, considering Beyoncé's loss for Album of the Year and the fact that Ye himself failed to score any awards, the decision was well-timed.
However, in a new interview with Pitchfork, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow revealed that Kanye happened to be in talks to perform.
"Kanye, as you know, had some medical concerns and situations," Portnow said. "We had dialogue with him about actually performing. At the end of the day, what we had heard was he just wasn't in a place where he felt comfortable doing that. That's completely understandable."
Portnow also shared the same sentiments about another A-list no-show, Drake. "We know he had a European tour booked. That's a big piece of business for an artist, to do a continent. So, can't argue with that."
When asked about his opinion on Frank Ocean expressing his sentiments about the Grammys in a Tumblr post, which was in response to members of the creative team calling his 2013 performance "not great TV," Portnow had nothing but respect for the singer. "Not everybody likes or wants to be part of every organization or awards process. I respect that."
"What I'll say about Frank is he did have his earlier album (Channel ORANGE) out at an early stage of his career, we were delighted that it was entered, we were delighted that he was a Grammy winner, we were delighted to have him on our stage, which gave him a platform very early in his career. That's something we’re proud of," he said. "Down the line he may feel differently. Artists change their opinion. I don't begrudge his choice at all."
In addition to discussing the absences of Kanye, Drake and Ocean, Portnow addressed the ceremony's history of race problems after the last string of Album of the Year victories went to white artists over black artists, including the 1989 over To Pimp A Butterfly controversy and Morning Phase by Beck beating _Beyoncé's self-titled album in 2015.
"We don't, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity. When you go to vote on a piece of music — at least the way that I approach it — is you almost put a blindfold on and you listen," he said. "It's a matter of what you react to and what in your mind as a professional really rises to the highest level of excellence in any given year. And that is going to be very subjective."
"That's what we ask our members to do, even in the ballots. We ask that they not pay attention to sales and marketing and popularity and charts. You have to listen to the music. So of the 14,000 voters, they listen, they make up their minds, and then they vote."