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Beyoncé, Taylor, Dua Lipa, Megan: Women dominate the 2021 Grammy nominations

Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and Beyonce
Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times; Andrew White / Parkwood Entertainment)

In January 2018, gender parity at the Grammys hit a new low.

In the 86 categories, only 17 women (or female-fronted acts) won the Grammy award. SZA, the most-nominated woman of the night, went home without a single statue. The year’s best new artist, Alessia Cara, became the only woman that year to win a general field category.

In a year when the #MeToo movement put a black light on the entertainment industry’s rampant sexual assault problem — and the Time’s Up organization called out egregious pay inequalities on the basis of race and gender — the losses for women, especially women of color, came like a collective slap in the face. The CEO of the Recording Academy promptly doubled down on the results. “Women [who] want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level … [They need] to step up,” said Neil Portnow, who has since stepped down.

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By contrast, the 2021 Grammy nominations mark a sweeping triumph for women across the board, as well as a series of historical firsts.

In a year in which she didn’t even release a proper studio album, Beyoncé tops the list for the most nominations for any artist. The 21-time Grammy winner is nominated in nine categories, including record and song of the year for “Black Parade,” a song released on Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Beyoncé is followed by Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift, who are tied with rapper Roddy Ricch with the second-most nominations, six. Both women are in the running for album of the year: Lipa for her disco opus “Future Nostalgia” and Swift for her indie-folk surprise “Folklore.”

The four general categories are led by women. In record of the year, awarded to the artist, five of the eight nominees are women: In addition to Beyoncé and Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion (featuring Beyoncé) received nods. Song of the year goes to songwriters; five female artists sang or rapped the eight nominated titles. In the best new artist category, six out of the eight contenders are women: Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. And in the prestigious album of the year category, half of the nominees are women: Swift, Dua Lipa, R&B singer Jhené Aiko and L.A. trio Haim, for their cheekily titled “Women In Music Pt. III.”

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For the first time in history, the category of best rock performance is entirely composed of female nominees. Alabama Shakes bandleader Brittany Howard, who became the first and only woman to win the category in 2016, is nominated for her solo release “Stay High.” Other contenders include Fiona Apple, Big Thief (fronted by Adrianne Lenker), Phoebe Bridgers, Grace Potter and Haim.

Also for the first time in history, all five nominees for best country album are women-led acts. Nominees include best new artist contender Ingrid Andress, plus Brandy Clark, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town (with two female members) and Ashley McBryde. This comes after artists including Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini sounded the alarm on country radio for exiling women from the airwaves; a 2019 study confirmed that only 10% of the artists circulated on country radio that year were female, and the number of songs played by women had declined by 66%since 2000.

The Recording Academy has continued to undergo some hiccups following the departure of former CEO Portnow. After being hired in 2019, Portnow’s replacement, Deborah Dugan — the academy’s first woman CEO — was placed on administrative leave just 10 days before the 2020 ceremony. Dugan fired back by filing a lawsuit against the academy, claiming voting irregularities and sexual harassment, among other charges.

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In the meantime, interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. will continue to serve through the 2021 ceremony, and until a long-term replacement is found.

“For us the emphasis is on finding a great CEO,” he told the Los Angeles Times in March. “The first and foremost priority will be interviewing a diverse and inclusive slate of candidates.”


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