Big Grammy year for female nominees spotlights industry progress

Although female artists have long been accused by critics and musicians of receiving less attention from Grammy voters, it seems likely that this year’s winners will be female.

Seven of the eight nominees for Album and Record of the Year at Sunday’s gala are female or gender nonconforming, including Taylor Swift, SZA, and Olivia Rodrigo. This is a significant shift that many observers of the industry believe has been long overdue.

“Women pop stars have gone from owning the red carpet discussion to owning the entire Grammys discussion,” said Kristin Lieb, a professor at Emerson University whose research focuses on entertainment marketing, music and gender.

“That’s a significant change,” Lieb told AFP. “The framing is becoming more about their talent and charisma than their bodies and outfits.”

Swift, SZA and Rodrigo snagged chances at Grammy gold in both the album and record categories, joined by Miley Cyrus and indie supergroup boygenius.

Top record nominees Billie Eilish and rising star Victoria Monet were nominated, and Janelle Monae and Lana Del Rey are in the running for Album of the Year.

Jon Batiste, the renowned jazz polymath who dominated the concert two years ago, is the only other nominee for both accolades.

Lieb said that the slate is noteworthy for both its representation of women and the presence of people who identify as gender fluid or queer, such Cyrus, Eilish, and Monae.

It’s a significant shift statistically: from 2012-2022, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that just 13.9 percent of nominees in major categories were women, and the rest were men.

At last year’s Grammys gala, half the nominees for Best New Artist were women, as were one-third of the contenders for Song of the Year, which honors songwriting.

But in Record and Album of the Year, it was just 15 and 12 percent, respectively.

Those statistics were particularly grim when paired with the now infamous words of former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow who said that female artists who want recognition in a music industry that’s historically sidelined and demeaned them should “step up.”

Late last year, Portnow was sued for allegedly drugging and raping a woman artist in 2018.

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