The Grammy Boys Club: A Look at Sexism in the Music Industry
On Sunday, January 28, the 60th annual Grammy Awards premiered on CBS. The Grammys have long been regarded as one of the most prestigious awards an artist can receive, and one of the most exciting nights for any music fan. The 2018 Grammy Awards, however, boasted some of the lowest ratings ever for the program, and it's not hard to see why. This year's show was a full display of everything that is wrong with the music industry today, and shamelessly so.
Throughout the event, host James Corden repeatedly stated that the 2018 nominees were the most diverse group the Academy has ever recognized. In recent years, the Recording Academy has received much criticism over their lack of artists of color receiving awards and even nominations. This year, that finally changed. However, the 2018 Grammy Awards still managed to surround themselves in controversy, adding yet another dent in their reputation.
The controversy began before the show even aired, when the nominees were announced and Lorde's Melodrama stood alone as the only female nominee in the Album of the Year category. The 21-year-old's sophomore album is beautiful, wild and hopelessly free as it explores the themes of growing up and maneuvering the depth of emotions that comes along with losing your adolescence. The album was absolutely deserving of this nomination, and in my opinion, was the clear front-runner for the win.
While the lack of females in this major category is problematic, the controversy came as a result of this. When the performers for the televised event were revealed, one name was noticeably missing: Lorde. Among the performers were several nominees, including every other artist vying for the coveted Album of the Year award. So, where was Lorde? It was later revealed that the Academy had in fact invited her to perform, but asked her to participate in a Tom Petty tribute, making her the only Album of the Year nominee to not receive a spot to perform their own nominated material.
Setting aside this obvious blunder, the four-hour event showcased several artists who are currently making beautiful music and dominating the industry. From Lady Gaga's heartfelt tribute to her late aunt, "Joanne" to Kesha's emotional performance of comeback single "Praying" (alongside other female artists such as Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Rexha and Andra Day), the show displayed just how women are out here killing the game.
Among these performers was Best New Artist nominee, SZA, who was nominated for five Grammy awards, making her the most nominated female of the night. Shockingly, SZA did not take home the coveted Best New Artist title. In fact, she did not take home any of the awards she was nominated for. And so, this issue continued when the only female awarded throughout the entire televised event was fellow Best New Artist nominee Alessia Cara, who took home the trophy three years after making her debut with hit single "Here."
Throughout the night, awards were given to male artists who dominated radio and streaming services last year like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, the latter of which took home all three major awards, Song/Record/Album of the Year. The most troubling win of the night came when Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" won Best Pop Solo performance. "Shape of You" was the only song by a male artist nominated in this category, beating out Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons," "What About Us" by Pink, "Love So Soft" by Kelly Clarkson, and Kesha's anthemic "Praying." The internet was quick to share their disappointment, as many expected the trophy to go to Kesha.
"Praying" is a beautiful and emotional song about Kesha overcoming sexual assault and forgiving those who have wronged her, while "Shape of You" is a typical up-tempo pop song about lusting after a woman's body. Unfortunately, the Academy chose to recognize the latter, which the internet took as a clear message that catchy hooks are more important than songs of substance, and the shape of a woman's body is more important than a woman bravely speaking her truth.
The Recording Academy immediately faced backlash for the lack of female winners, which comes right in the middle of Hollywood feminist movement, #TimesUp. In the wake of the backlash, Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy, responded by saying that women in music need to "step up" in order to receive recognition. These comments are deeply problematic, and were obviously faced with immediate criticism. Female artists like Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Pink all responded to Portnow's comment, pointing out that women were killing it this year and have continually "stepped up" to compete in a male dominated industry.
Instead of asking artists to "step up," I think that Portnow should "step down." These award shows are becoming entirely too predictable, which leaves artists with the decision of making beautiful music that stays true to their sound and vision or just carbon copying another hit single that sounds like everything else on the radio. Until the Academy truly starts recognizing and rewarding diversity in music, the music industry could continue this pattern of writing music with these awards in mind, rather than making good, honest music.