Women Ruled at the 2019 Grammys

This year’s Grammy Awards were great for women, especially after last year’s #GrammysSoMale moment when female recording artists were snubbed, and the head of the Recording Academy told women that they needed to “step it up” for better representation. In total, women took home 31 statuettes, performed twice as often as their male counterparts during the nearly four-hour telecast, and won in six of the nine categories shown in prime time. We recap the highlights and the many “firsts” at the Grammys here.

Alicia Keys, with fifteen Grammys to her name, hosted music’s biggest night— the first woman to do so in more than a decade. She kicked off the night with four of her fellow female music lovers (Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Lady Gaga) who each explained what music means to them. Lady Gaga spoke about music’s influence on her life: “They said I was weird. That my look, my choices, my sound, that it wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them.” Young artists everywhere have taken Gaga’s words to heart, including first-time winner Cardi B, who credits Lady Gaga’s journey in the business as an inspiration.

Janelle Monáe delivered one of the night’s most electric performances and elevated bi-sexual visibility when she changed the lyrics to her song to include references to liking girls and liking boys. The “Dirty Computer” singer also made news in hosting the Grammy pre-show, “Fem the Future” brunchwhich championed women’s inclusion in all stages of music production.   

A new study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 
Inclusion in the Recording Studio?,” finds that women are mostly absent from the Grammys. Only 10.4% of Grammy nominees from 2013 to 2019 were women, and for the first time in seven years, a woman was nominated for Producer of the Year. (Spoiler alert: she didn’t win.)

This study also finds that women are mostly missing as performers, songwriters, and producers in popular music. Males outnumber females 3.6:1 in the recording industry, and in some positions, the ratio gap is much larger. Male producers, for example, outnumber female producers 47:1, and only four producers out of 871 were women of color.

More women were nominated for Grammys in 2019 after efforts to diversify the voting membership. According to Billboard, the nominating committees for this year’s awards were 51% percent female and 48% people of color. These changes led to some notable Grammy “firsts”:

  • Cardi B was the first female solo artist to win Best Rap Album of the Year.
  • Women won five of the six top Best Album Awards of the night: Pop Vocal (Ariana Grande), Country (Kacey Musgraves), R&B (H.E.R.), Rap (Cardi B), and Album of the Year (Kacey Musgraves).
  • Brandi Carlile made history as the first openly LGBTQ artist to win Best Americana Album.
  • Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won Best Song and Best Record of the Year, the first hip hop song/album to receive both honors.

It was also ladies’ night at the Grammys this year, with memorable performances from a host of diverse female performers of all ages:

  • Cardi B’s performance of “Money” purposefully dismantled sexist tropes in rap videos, with big displays of wealth and sex, but with all-female performers. She ended the performance with a Wakanda Forever salute!
  • Alicia Keys dazzled us with an incredible performance, playing two pianos at once, and proving why she should host the Grammys for life.
  • A heartfelt tribute to Dolly Parton brought together Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, and Little Big Town.
  • Brandi Carlile’s performance was one of the most powerful of the night. Singing about misrepresentation, the singer of “The Joke’ told NPR: “There are so many people feeling misrepresented [today]. So many people feeling unloved. Boys feeling marginalized and forced into these kind of awkward shapes of masculinity that they do or don’t belong in… so many men and boys are trans or disabled or shy. The song is just for people that feel under-represented, unloved or illegal.”
  • Diana Ross celebrated her 75th #DiamondDiana birthday with a reminder of what made Motown so supremely special, and her grandson’s introduction was a show stopper!

The 2019 Grammys were inclusive, from the first act to the last award, which matters because of the power of this entertainment medium. Music has a huge impact on our lives. It makes us feel as though we are a part of something bigger; it heals us. This is why we’re counting on the music industry to change its tune once and for all.