Arts Opinion: Female musicians wrongfully snubbed at Grammy awards

There were high hopes for women in the music industry at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Jan. 28. This year’s nominations received praise for inclusivity, representing many artists of color as well as women. 

On the surface, the show seemed to be a time for not only white women, but also women of color, to claim the spotlight. Guests were even encouraged to wear white roses in concurrence with the “#MeToo” movement. 

Despite all of these inclusive elements, the glass ceiling still has yet to be shattered. Women took home a mere 11 of the 84 awards, and Alessia Cara was the only female to win in a major category. R&B singer-songwriter SZA, who was the most nominated woman of the night, did not secure a single award, although she had been a crowd favorite and up in five categories. 

Lorde, the only woman represented in the Album of the Year category for Melodrama, not only left empty handed, but the producers asked her to do a tribute to the late Tom Petty, instead of performing her own music, according to The Huffington Post. Rightly upset, viewers of the awards show took to the internet and rapidly spread the use of the hashtag: “#GrammysSoMale.” 

A new study done by Stacy Smith from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism unveiled some rather worrying evidence supporting the “#GrammysSoMale” claim. The study showed that “a total of 90.7 percent of nominees between 2013 and 2018 were male, meaning that 9.3 percent were women,” according to the Chicago Tribune

When asked about the lack of women taking home awards, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow stated, in perhaps the lowest point of the night, that women need to “step up.” 

“It has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers and want to be part of the industry on the executive level to step up,” Portnow said. 

In response to this comment, over 20 powerful female music industry executives demanded Portnow’s resignation through an open letter, reading, “We do not await your welcome into the fraternity. We do not have to sing louder, jump higher or be nicer to prove ourselves,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The issue, however, is that the women in the music industry do not need to “step up.” At this year’s Grammys, Kesha gave a poignant performance of “Praying,” a song written amid legal battles with her former producer Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald, known professionally as Dr. Luke, who Kesha claimed in 2014 had “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her when she was 18 years old, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

This performance lost all impact when the award for Best Pop Solo Performance was given to Ed Sheeran for “Shape of You,” a song that objectifies a woman’s body. The four women who were up against Sheeran were recognized for deeply personal songs and were robbed of this award.

Not only do the Grammys love to snub women, but the number of women of color winning awards has been lessening even though they are just as qualified as other nominees. Beyoncé has lost album of the year three times, once to Adele in 2017, who even felt Beyoncé’s Lemonade was more deserving than her album, 25. The last time a black female artist won this award was Lauryn Hill in 1999, according to Vogue. 

This year’s Grammys made a feeble attempt at social awareness, only pretending to adopt the attitude surrounding the “#MeToo” movement. The awards, however, did not support the artists who have struggled with sexual assault and harassment. 

In promoting these ideals, but not recognizing and rewarding artists who have been affected by them, the Grammys and the music industry continue to fail women, the struggles they have overcome and the powerful art they have created because of them.