This year’s edition of the most famous American music awards, the Grammys, which will be awarded on the night from Sunday to Monday, will be under the sign of women. After years when organizers were criticized for a lack of diversity, it is women who have the best chance of success. This is happening at a time when the representation of women in the pop charts is increasing and the biggest crowds at concerts or their transmissions to cinemas can bring female singers.
Stars Taylor Swift and SZA or songs from the movie Barbie are among the favorites of the 66th Grammy. Among the eight nominees for the most important statuette for album of the year, there is only one man, thirty-seven-year-old Jon Batiste.
The versatile singer SZA, whose real name is Solána Rowe, can succeed with the single Kill Bill. She named him after the Quentin Tarantino film of the same name and declares in it that she feels like killing her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. “I’d rather go to hell than be alone,” she announces. SZA can win in nine categories, the most of all.
Singer SZA collected the most nominations of all. | Photo: Profimedia.cz
Experts attribute the fact that so many women have gathered in the nominations to their increasingly strong position in the music industry, which has been dominated by men for decades. But Elton John’s previous record for the number of tickets sold for one tour was recently surpassed by Taylor Swift, and one of the most requested shows of the past year was prepared by Beyoncé. Summer hit Barbie drew millions of women to theaters, where more crowds flocked to a taping of Taylor Swift’s concert in the fall.
“Women have had a phenomenal year not only in music, but also with Barbie becoming the most commercially successful movie of the year,” notes Paul Grein, who writes about the music awards for Billboard magazine. “Women clearly dominated pop culture last year,” she thinks.
Not just about Barbie
In addition to Taylor Swift and SZA, singers Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo, Janelle Monáe or the indie-rock trio Boygenius, which consists of musicians Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, can win the Grammy for album of the year.
Billie Eilish can succeed with a song from the movie Barbie. | Photo: Profimedia.cz
Songs from the movie Barbie collected 12 nominations. The song of the year can be the piano ballad What Was I Made For?, which Billie Eilish contributed to the soundtrack. Her protagonist experiences the crushing realization that she is not real and has been created as a product to be consumed.
According to Americansongwriter.com, the singer first wrote purely about the Mattel doll. But when she listened to the song several days later, she realized that she had subconsciously woven into it some of her fears about where she belonged in the world and why she was actually here. “Without realizing it, I wrote it for myself. Sometimes I feel exactly like this,” said Billie Eilish.
The fact that women received the most Grammy nominations this year could also be influenced by the change of the organizing National Academy of Music Arts and Sciences. The organization bringing together musicians, producers and sound engineers has existed since 1957 and is, of course, developing. Since 2019, the representation of women among its members has increased from 26 to 30 percent.
“The organization is rapidly recruiting new members, especially women and non-whites,” notes Billboard magazine’s Paul Grein. “They are working to get people who have a different point of view among their members.”
Of course, the rules are always decisive. For example, popular English singer Harry Styles or Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny were not nominated purely because they did not release any music between October 2022 and September 15, 2023, when the window for possible nominations closed.
Nevertheless, show business analyzes also show that the situation is changing. Last year, 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart was made up of women, the most in the last 12 years, calculated researcher Stacy L. Smith from the University of Southern California.
According to her study, women are also increasing in other professions, for example, they wrote almost 20 percent of all songs in the same chart, which is a shift from 14 percent in 2022.
This is an encouraging signal for female musicians. Nevertheless, they are still far from achieving parity, warns the author of the research. For example, only 6.5 percent of producers were women last year, and not a single one received a Grammy nomination. “However, overall, the data clearly shows that women are gaining strength in the music industry,” summarizes Stacy L. Smith.
She herself also attributes this to various initiatives such as She Is The Music, Spotify Equal, Moving the Needle or Keychange, which are united by the effort to achieve equality in the industry.
One of the ambassadors of the Spotify Equal campaign for the equality of women in the music business was the Czech singer Pam Rabbit. On the picture from the January concert in Prague. | Photo: Jan Handrejch / Právo / Profimedia.cz
Not that much of a change
“Female pop stars used to be talked about when they posed on the red carpet. Now the debate is finally revolving around them on the awards themselves,” academic Kristin Lieb, who studies gender issues in the entertainment industry at Emerson College in the US, told AFP. “Finally, it’s about their talent and not their bodies,” he adds.
On the contrary, music analyst Tatiana Cirisano from the research agency Midia Research notes that women are already less successful in genre categories such as rock, dance or hip hop. This respondent is also more skeptical about the overall transformation of the industry.
The Grammy for album of the year can also be won by Olivia Rodrigo with Guts. | Photo: Profimedia.cz
“Last year, several female superstars had extremely successful hits. In terms of the overall gender imbalance in the industry, it hasn’t changed as much as we’d hoped,” she counters.
Still, a record could be broken at the Grammys on Monday night. If Taylor Swift took home the statuette for album of the year with Midnights, she would become the first performer with four wins to her credit. In this most-watched category so far, she received the award for Fearless, 1989 and Folklore, equaling the scores of Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, who also won three times.
If SZA succeeds with the SOS album, she would take home the most prestigious trophy as the first black woman since Lauryn Hill in 1999 with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Winners will be announced at a ceremony held at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. It is hosted by Trevor Noah. “It’s always the most nerve-wracking night of the year, but I always enjoy it tremendously,” the 39-year-old comedian, who was trusted by the organizers for the fourth time in a row, told the AP agency.
In the end, even the National Academy of Music Arts and Sciences, which organizes it, could not avoid changes, adds the AFP agency. Not long ago, its director Neil Portnow said that if female artists feel left behind, they should try harder.
Last fall, Portnow, who managed the institution from 2002 to 2019, was indicted. The former top manager now faces suspicions that in 2018 he invited a musician to his hotel room, who, according to her testimony, mixed a narcotic substance into her drink and then raped her. Portnow denies the allegations.
Today, fifty-five-year-old producer Harvey Mason Jr. leads the academy in his place. And he no longer thinks that women have to try harder. “Female musicians made great music last year. And our academics were clearly impressed,” she concludes.
Video: Kill Bill single by singer SZA
Singer SZA may succeed with the single Kill Bill, named after the film of the same name by Quentin Tarantino. | Video: RCA Records