Only one female solo artist was awarded in the major English-language categories all night, despite cursory nods to #TimesUp and #MeToo.
It can feel a little bit like deja vu. Despite a relatively diverse roster of nominees, and a couple of performances which nodded towards the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, one of the major takeaways from the 2018 Grammy Awards was that, ultimately, it let women down.
Before the ceremony, potential viewers and fans had high hopes for the chances of nominees like SZA, Lady Gaga and Lorde, but in the end, only one female solo artist – Alessia Cara, in the Best New Artist category – was awarded. Rihanna, too, won as a featured artist on Kendrick Lamar's "Loyalty" for Best Rap/Sung Performance, but not in a solo capacity. In a year where raising women up felt especially crucial and important, it seems that the Grammys was unable to put its money where its mouth was. What's most interesting about this is that SZA and Lorde both made two of 2017's best albums, which were critically acclaimed and seized upon by fans. Though a quick response to the dearth of female winners has been 'well maybe the best person won?? maybe those albums just weren't that good?' that argument immediately fails to hold up with even a cursory listen to Melodrama – an insightful, sometime-euphoric chronicle of the hurricane that follows a breakup – and CTRL, which distills so much about modern love and romance into R&B slinkier than a satin robe.
This, however, is nothing new. Last week, prior to the ceremony, NPR reported on a study undertaken by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which found that over 90 percent of Grammy nominees in the past six years were male. Stacy Smith, one of the study's authors, told NPR, "When it comes to songwriters, only 12 percent are female, and perhaps most egregiously, only 2 percent of 651 producers were women. And only two of those producers were women of colour."
It seems that while it made the right gestures – allowing Kesha, for many an emblem of #MeToo in the music industry, to perform with other women, for example – the Grammys were unable to follow through by actually giving prizes to women. In fact, the Recording Academy struggled to recognise women all the way through: before the ceremony it was reported that the only female Album of the Year nominee, Lorde, was only invited to perform as part of an ensemble, while her male co-nominees all performed solo.
When asked about Lorde's absence on the slate of performers, Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Grammys, said:
"She had a great album, album of the year is a big honour, but there's no way we can really deal with everybody. Sometimes people get left out that shouldn't, but on the other hand, we did the best we can to make sure that it's a representative and balanced show."
Frustratingly, his response feels a lot like he's suggesting that Lorde ought to be happy with simply being nominated, and that seems to be the Grammys' attitude to women in general this year. In a year where women made standout records, the fact that only one was recognised amongst her male peers is a disappointment, certainly, but unfortunately, never really a surprise.
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