Female artists dominate nominations in the "big four" categories at the 61st Grammy Awards this year, signaling a welcome turnaround after last year, when the music industry's biggest award show faced criticism for nominating very few women.
In 2018, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow offered a tone-deaf statement explaining why so few female stars were acknowledged. "Women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls," he said, "who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level" should "step up because I think they would be welcome."
Ah, yes, because women haven't been breaking their backs to create meaningful music, write unique songs, record and produce their own work, and upload YouTube covers for... years. See, it's not that women aren't doing the work — it's that no matter how hard they try, the music industry operates against them and prioritizes male artists.
This year, however, it looks like the Recording Academy made an effort to redeem itself. Women fared much better in the top categories, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. There were no female nominees for Record of the Year in 2018, but this year, Cardi B, Brandi Carlile, Lady Gaga, SZA, and Maren Morris joined the race.
For Album of the Year, Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy, Brandi Carlile's By The Way I Forgive You, H.E.R's self-titled album, Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, and Kacey Musgrave's Golden Hour all received nods.
For Song of the Year, five women are in contention: SZA for "All the Stars," Ella Mai for "Boo'd Up," Brandi Carlile for "The Joke," Sarah Aarons for Maren Morris, Zedd, and Grey's "The Middle," Lady Gaga for "Shallow," and Teddy Geiger (who recently came out as a trans woman) for Shawn Mendes' "In My Blood."
The odds are even better for women in the Best New Artist category. Six out of the eight nominees are women: Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha, and Jorja Smith. Last year, Alessia Cara won the award, but she was also the only woman to receive a solo trophy in the live telecast.
Janelle Monae — one of the most vocal critics of the Recording Academy — expressed how grateful she is that women's talents are finally being recognized.
"This is going to be a special Grammys," she said. "As much as it is about me, it's not just about me. Just knowing that so many women are nominated this year, looking back from last year to this year when I was on the stage at the Grammys, you could see that I was frustrated about the opportunities and about our visibility as women. Yes, we have so much more work to do, but this is a moment to be celebrated. This is a moment for women to love on each other and let each other know."
But the 2019 Grammys isn't totally free of controversy. Earlier this week, Ariana Grande called out show producer Ken Ehrlich for not giving her creative freedom over her scheduled performance. As a result, Grande decided to boycott the show altogether.
Other big names like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Taylor Swift will also forgo this year's show.
Women will also dominate the event with a handful of performances. Lady Gaga is tapped to perform as well as Diana Ross, H.E.R., Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monae, Cardi B, Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa, St. Vincent, Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, Andra Day, and Chloe x Halle.
It's unclear if this year's progress is the Recording Academy's bid to save face in response to last year, but it's a step toward prioritizing diversity and representation.
The 2018 event was emblematic of the industry's bad habit of putting men on a pedestal, and it's about time we reverse that.
Female artists are here, and they'll continue to push the envelope. It's the industry's turn to "step up" and recognize their efforts.
The 61st Grammy Awards took place Sunday, February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Singer Alicia Keys hosted the event. Camila Cabello, Janelle Monae, and Shawn Mendes and Miley Cyrus, and other major artists performed.