On Sunday night the Recording Academy hosted the 60th annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden in New York City. A night created to acknowledge and award musical excellence that, in recent years, seems to be increasingly unaware of what that really means.
Do astounding sales equate excellence? What about critical acclaim? Versatility? Innovation? Themes?
Now, I enjoy a catchy pop song as much as the next person and believe that there is something to be said for songs that achieve commercial success by reaching a broad audience, so much so that I believe that they deserve to be nominated. A nomination. A recognition of success. However, to give awards of excellence to the most commercially accessible songs and albums of the year feels almost insulting – and that was made abundantly clear this year.
In a recent tweet, actress, activist, and musician Janelle Monae highlighted that in the last five years 90.3 percent of all Grammy’s nominations belonged to men, leaving only 9.7 percent for women. This year, even in the few categories that women outnumbered men, they still lost. Only one woman got to deliver an acceptance speech during “music’s biggest night”: Alessia Cara for Best New Artist.
In the top categories of the night (Song, Record and Album of the Year) only two solo female acts received one nomination each; Lorde for Album of the Year and Julia Michaels for Song of the Year. Despite Lorde’s nomination for the pinnacle award of the night, she was the only Album of the Year nominee who wasn’t approached to perform during the broadcast; all performed, except for Jay-Z, who declined his offer.
One of the greatest upsets of the night came in the two major pop categories: Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Vocal Performance. In each category Ed Sheeran, whose album earned a whopping 2.8/10 rating from Pitchfork, won against three of the highest-acclaimed solo female projects of the year: Lady Gaga’s Joanne, Lana del Rey’s Lust for Life and Kesha’s Rainbow. In the most powerful moments of the evening, Kesha performed “Praying,” a song written about her personal experience with overcoming sexual harassment, manipulation and abuse, while Lady Gaga performed a tribute to her late-aunt who passed away from the physically debilitating disease, lupus. Ed Sheeran didn’t show up.
Then, the highest nominated female of the night, SZA, who was up for five awards, met the same injustice that Rihanna met last year with her eight nominations. No awards. SZA lost all of her categories to men (except for Best New Artist, despite being more critically acclaimed than the winner, Alessia Cara), all of whom were also nominated for the top categories – leaving Lorde to be the only Album of the Year nominee to not be nominated for any other awards.
And the Recording Academy’s response? Women need to “step up.”
While the Recording Academy has, seemingly, taken active steps in being more racially inclusive, it is nearly impossible to be ignorant of their exclusion of women. Further, the men that are nominated seem to be held to a standard so much lower than their female competitors thus resulting in an unjustified and undeserving male sweep of the awards.
In response, artists like P!nk and Sheryl Crow, their fans, followers and numerous news sources took to #GrammysSoMale to express their discontent with the night – along with people on the opposite side of the spectrum who believe that the hashtag is just another way to give everyone a trophy.
It’s easy to understand that music taste is subjective, and this article is not meant to diminish the success of men in the industry, but when women are so monumentally left out, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.
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