When Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to win Grammys after a particularly dismal ceremony, a comment he later backtracked, many women artists were pissed at him. But nobody seems more hellbent on getting Portnow to step down than Vanessa Carlton.
She gave a particularly candid interview with Vulture’s Dee Lockett where she elaborated on why she tweeted a petition to have Portnow step down from his Recording Academy post. “I have no idea why he would infer that women are needing to get off the bench in any way shape or form,” she says. “Women are in the game. A statement like that is just clearly being behind the times.”
As for why the Academy needs a new president, she says:
It’s interesting, because how was Neil chosen? He’s been president for 16 years. I joke about this: What is it Game of Thrones, where we wait forever and then they pass it down to the their son or something? We need to get with the times. He is behind them.
Carlton admits that she hasn’t voted in the Grammys for the past five years because her membership expired, but that she feels like she has to step up now because of how terrible this year’s ceremony was in terms of women winning and being given the space to perform. And as for the white roses “protest” she’s skeptical as to how much it helped:
I didn’t even know what that was. I don’t think it makes a difference. I just don’t. What makes a difference are conversations like these and me putting myself on the line. There’s nothing harmful about the roses, but it’s really about taking risks to make change.
But I could easily be called a hypocrite because I’m speaking out but I haven’t voted in a couple years. That’s part of what’s so great about this: I had checked out and thought this Grammys thing was bullshit, but no, I gotta get back in the game and renew.
And Carlton also dropped a disheartening but not completely unsurprising bombshell that she herself has signed an NDA against someone in the industry, someone who was actually at the Grammys:
I personally signed an NDA for someone who appeared on the Grammys. It makes my blood boil. Maybe some artists feel that they’re really beholden to their labels, but I hope the dam does break because that behavior has infiltrated the music industry just as much as it has everywhere else... Until recently, I couldn’t even discuss mine. Those agreements are really powerful and a lot of times you’re signing them so you don’t get sued and can just get out of your contract. I’m sure there’s a lot going on there, but I don’t know anyone who’s personally signed an NDA. But I do know a lot of women in the industry who’ve had very similar situations to me. And I’ve been under my NDA for five years.
Whether or not the petition, which currently has over 11,500 signatures out of 12,000 needed, actually gets Portnow to step down, at least Carlton is doing the work and speaking out aggressively for change.