Long sidelined at the Grammys, women in rock claim their due

The Grammys’ rock categories normally ooze testosterone, but this year, women-led acts have seized the mic.

It is a significant shift that comes just a few years after Neil Portnow, the former CEO of the Recording Academy, was roundly derided for saying women should “step up” to achieve fair representation in the music industry, in which they’ve long been sidelined.

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For the first time ever, the Best Rock Performance category — a field that’s existed since 2012 — is comprised entirely of solo women or female-led acts: Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, sister group Haim, Brittany Howard, Grace Potter, and the Adrianne Lenker-fronted band Big Thief.

Lenker, Apple, Howard and Bridgers are all also up for Best Rock Song, and the three latter acts received nominations for Best Alternative Album. Potter scored another nod for Best Rock Album.

Women molded rock’s evolution — blues pioneer Big Mama Thornton, for example, was the first to record “Hound Dog,” the seminal hit now strongly associated with Elvis Presley.

But in the mid-twentieth century, the fledgling genre’s image “pretty quickly got taken over by men,” said Evelyn McDonnell, a scholar focused on pop culture, music and gender.

“You really saw that division: what the lads with the guitars did was rock, and what girls in the bouffants did was Motown or pop,” the Loyola Marymount University professor told AFP.

“There’s this whole sexist way in which rock gets defined as white men with guitars.”

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