When the 2024 Grammy nominees were first announced, women dominated the major categories. And at Sunday’s show, those nominations translated into awards: Every televised competitive Grammy went to at least one woman.
Several women earned their very first Grammys, including Miley Cyrus, best new artist Victoria Monét, country artist Lainey Wilson and Karol G — also the first woman to win in best música urbana, a moment that may reflect changing perceptions of reggaetón and Latin hip-hop as exclusively “men’s music.”
“You know, I feel a lot of responsibility about that. As a woman, I have to say, like in my experience, it was tough, like so many things, to be a girl in this industry, in the music that I do, in urban music,” the “Mañana Será Bonito” artist told The Associated Press backstage, saying she also reflected “women in the world fighting to represent” themselves.
Paramore became the first rock band fronted by a woman to win best rock album. And Taylor Swift, of course, not only made history by becoming the first artist to win album of the year four times — but she also is still the only woman to ever win more than twice.
“First of all, I think it is just wonderful to see so many women at the top,” Dua Lipa told the AP on the red carpet, moments before she opened the show with a fiery pop medley.
“What we want is just an equal space in the industry and to be seen equally on equal levels — not just on the creative side but on the business side — so hopefully the equality in the industry will kind of level things out a little,” she added. “I think we’re still kind of figuring that part out. But we’re getting there, slowly.”
The evidence points to what Lipa is referencing: Only 19.5% of all songwriters across the Billboard Hot 100 songs in 2023 were women, according to analysis from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Women still make up a fraction of producers and engineers.
But at the Grammys, where much of the focus is on performers, it appeared like women were ruling the industry.
Phoebe Bridgers of boygenius won her first Grammys last night, taking home more than any other performer last night, with four.
Phoebe Bridgers poses in the press room with the awards for best pop duo/group performance for "Ghost in the Machine," best rock song for "Not Strong Enough," best rock performance for "Not Strong Enough," and best alternative music album for "The Record" during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. Photo / Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Lucy Dacus, from left, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, of boygenius accept the award for best rock performance "Not Strong Enough" during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. Photo / Chris Pizzello
In the week leading up to the Grammys, Bridgers told the AP there was some significance to the band’s recognition because “it was only a couple of years ago now that that (expletive) who is now being accused of sexual violence said women need to step it up if they want to be nominated.”
She was referring to former Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who, in 2018, said women need “to step up” if they wanted to receive Grammys and then issued an apology. He stepped down in 2019. In November 2023, Portnow was sued by a woman who said he had drugged and raped her in 2018, an allegation his representative has called “completely false.”
Bridgers renewed her critique backstage at the Grammys, telling the media room, as she held one of her four trophies, that she hopes he’ll “rot.”
The Recording Academy has made considerable changes to their programming in the post-Portnow years, attempting to better reflect the current musical climate. Recently, more than 2,400 music creators joined the voting bloc — of those new additions, 50% are people of color, 46% are under the age of 40, and 37% are women.
In January, Recording Academy CEO and President Harvey Mason jr. theorized the number of women nominated was “a direct result of a lot of the changes that we’ve been making at the academy,” something echoed by Swift while accepting her first award of the night.
“I know that the way the Recording Academy voted is a direct reflection of the passion of the fans,” she said.
The question then becomes: Was this year a fluke? The result of an all-star year of women who couldn’t be ignored? A correction? Symbolic of some systemic shift? Or something else entirely?
Tracy Chapman, left, and Luke Combs perform “Fast Car” during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. Photo / Chris Pizzello
The only real televised criticism came from Jay-Z, the lone man awarded solo on the telecast (Finneas also won a televised Grammy, alongside his sister, Billie Eilish). His acceptance speech for the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award began by shouting out the rap legends that came before him — the ones who worked to bring hip-hop to the preeminent music award show, only to have rap categories not make the official broadcast Sunday.
“We want you all to get it right,” Jay Z said in his speech. “At least get it close to right.”
The he switched focus to Beyoncé, who last year became the most decorated artist in Grammy history, with 32 trophies.
“Most Grammys, never won album of the year. How does that work?” he said of his wife. “Even by your own metrics it doesn’t work.”
Emily Lordi, a Vanderbilt University professor whose focus is African American literature and Black popular music, says there is value in examining the intersections of race and feminism at the Grammys.
This year, two women — SZA, for her critically acclaimed and groundbreaking “SOS,” and Janelle Monae, for her innovate treatise on sensuality and freedom “The Age of Pleasure,” were up for album of the year. If one of them had taken it home, the winner would have become the first Black woman to do so since Lauryn Hill with “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1999.
Lizzo, right, presents the award for best R&B song to SZA for “Snooze” during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. Photo / Chris Pizzello
Lordi says that record “suggests a residual and highly flawed view of Black women’s music as ‘niche,’” despite the fact that “Black women have foundationally influenced every genre of American music, so that Billie Eilish’s vocal style is a direct descendant of Billie Holiday’s aesthetic, just as Miley is made possible by Tina Turner, and Taylor by Tracy Chapman.”
Janelle Monae, who has 10 career nominations, did not win a Grammy — and never has. SZA, who led nominations with nine, took home three awards — but was completely shut out of the general field categories.
There’s much to celebrate about the 2024 Grammys, including its focus on female performers — something that wouldn’t have seemed possible as recently as 2011, when the Grammys still had gender-specific awards.
But, Lordi notes, “as we champion the representation of women, we also need to keep thinking intersectionally and critically about which women are being honored and for what?”
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