It’s been a great year for women in rock--from the emergence of rebel Ani DiFranco and the building stardom of Jewel to the Sarah McLachlan-led Lilith Fair’s triumph over the summer festival tour competition.
But you’d hardly know it from the first round of Grammy voting that’s underway.
The ballot being considered by the recording academy’s nearly 9,000 members to determine the final five nominees in each category lists just 11 eligible candidates for female rock vocal performance: DiFranco, Fiona Apple, Patti Smith and Meredith Brooks, all of whom have received a lot of media and public attention, along with lesser-known Leah Andreone, Thornetta Davis, Lauren Hoffman, Lauren Christy, Amanda Marshall, Abra Moore and Garrison Starr.
That’s much better than in 1988 and 1992, when they couldn’t even round up enough female rock artists to present the category, which is only open to artists billed as solo acts. But it’s fewer than a third of the 36 counterparts in the male category.
National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences President Michael Greene is concerned about the discrepancy, which he says recurs in an “under-representation” of women in the alternative-rock and group categories as well. But he attributes much of the situation to timing (such female rock regulars as Melissa Etheridge didn’t release new material in the past year), genre definition (Jewel and Shawn Colvin, among others, were deemed by an eligibility screening panel not to be “rock” artists) and rules twists (Sheryl Crow’s 1997 singles are eligible in several categories, but they came from a 1996 Grammy-winning album and are not eligible for performance awards).
Carla Desantis, publisher and editor in chief of the women-oriented music magazine Rockrgrl, is dismayed by the lack of a female presence in the rock category, but she doesn’t see it as a blow to women in rock.
“It’s not the record-buying public or the press sending in these entries,” she says, noting that the original submissions for nomination come from the record companies and the academy membership. “This might be all the women who fit the category. It would only be an insult if there were deserving women that the record companies didn’t nominate.”