The last few years have brought the conversation about women in the music industry into the mainstream, as we start to consider the gender balance in festivals, production teams and now, awards season. In 2018, the #GrammysSoMale hashtag on social media shed a light on the fact that just 9% of nominees in the span of 6 years were women. The 2021 edition of the festival, however, has stepped up to the mark, and the Grammys are finally a celebration of female talent in the music industry.
This is evident especially in the big four, which is notoriously male dominated – although Billie Eilish did take home all of them last year. For Record of the Year, Beyoncé appears twice on the list, for single ‘Black Parade’ and her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion on her ‘Savage’ remix. Beyoncé holds the most nominations this year, with nine nominations across seven categories. This also brings her up to 79 nominations in total, making her the most-nominated female artist of all time.
In Album of the Year, Dua Lipa and Haim were both recognised for their highly anticipated albums from this year, as well as Taylor Swifts surprise release Folklore, which was met in July with immense critical and commercial acclaim. In Song of the Year, which is given to songwriters, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa all make appearances alongside HER’s powerful track ‘I Can’t Breathe’.
It was also a fantastic year for the Best New Artist category, featuring 2020 favourites Phoebe Bridgers, Doja Cat, Noah Cyrus and Megan Thee Stallion among others in this women-majority category.
Perhaps this most pleasant surprise came in the Best Rock Performance category, in which every nominee is a woman or woman-fronted act. Rock music is notoriously dominated by male performers, with women rarely making a significant appearance at rock festivals. Here, we see recognition of Fiona Apple’s legendary year in music for her performance of ‘Shameika’, taken from her 5-star album Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Although many fans expected to see her appear in the big four, it’s a historical moment for women in alternative music. Joining her are Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers, Haim, Brittany Howard and Grace Potter, who also makes an appearance in the Best Rock Album nominees.
There’s no doubt that this year’s nominations are revolutionary. After year’s of feeling like no one is listening, talented women in the industry have been fairly recognised for their contributions to music. The sincerity of this gesture will become clearer as we approach the ceremony, taking into account how female performers are treated and how many artists go on to win the awards that they were nominated for. But it’s definitely a good start.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Imbrock