The singer recently shared a playlist highlighting the work of collaborators on his latest LP, including artists like Brian Eno, Oneohtrix Point Never, Sampha and Blood Orange — but no women.
Many were quick to point out the distinct lack of female representation.
David Byrne has a special place in my heart, but it seems like women don't have a place in this American Utopia. pic.twitter.com/WnmV8YyLoJ— Lauren Martin (@codeinedrums) March 1, 2018
25 men, 0 women. He couldn't phone St. Vincent? Disappointing from Byrne.— Sinéad Gleeson (@sineadgleeson) March 6, 2018
"I regret not hiring and collaborating with women for this album – it's ridiculous. This lack of representation is something that is widespread and problematic in our industry." https://t.co/5WpwAx2t95
It's not just DB who messed up here. It takes a large team to make these things happen, and not one person questioned the decision to exclude female collaborators? Men, it's time to challenge each other. https://t.co/wQkwavxttt— half waif (@HalfWaif) March 6, 2018
Others have leapt to Byrne's defence, though, pointing out his past track record of collaborating with women and arguing that he should have a right to creative freedom.
It wasn't so long ago David Byrne actually did an album with only women. And his last album was a collaboration with St. Vincent so I really don't understand.— David Wilkinson (@DavidMcrLive) March 6, 2018
After a career full of women back-up singers, working with a female bassist in Talking Heads, and collaborating with St. Vincent, David Byrne now has to apologize for lack of females on #AmericanUtopia— Patience Greene (@PatienceAGreene) March 6, 2018
Because of course we achieve #equality by limiting creative expression.
Nevertheless, Byrne has since responded to the backlash, acknowledging his contributions to widespread gender inequality in the music industry and issuing a statement in which he says he regrets not working with women on the album.
"It's ridiculous, it's not who I am and it certainly doesn't match how I've worked in the past," he wrote. "It doesn't represent my current live show, which has a slew of diverse creators and collaborators, making this even more negligent on my part."
He goes on to applaud those who brought the conversation to the forefront, adding: "It's hard to realize that no matter how much effort you spend nudging the world in what you hope is the right direction, sometimes you are part of the problem."
Read his full message below.
See the full list of American Utopia credits here. The album arrives this Friday (March 9), but you can give it an advance listen here.
Find full details on Byrne's upcoming tour dates here.