Bridgers referenced ex-CEO’s remarks that ladies must “step up”, whereas Taylor Swift, Tracy Chapman and different girl artists made Grammy historical past
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Phoebe Bridgers is not one to drag punches. At Sunday’s Grammy Awards, the place she took residence 4 trophies for her work with boygenius and SZA, Bridgers dressed down former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow, who, in 2018, infamously remarked that if girls need larger illustration on the awards present, they would wish to work more durable.
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“The ex-president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, mentioned that if girls need to be nominated and win Grammys, that they need to ‘step up,'” Bridgers mentioned within the Grammy press room, after boygenius gained three awards. “To him, I might prefer to say, ‘I do know you are not lifeless but, however if you end up, rot in piss.'”
It is a robust assertion, and one rooted in an actual wrestle confronted by girls artists – in addition to these from different marginalised teams – to be recognised for his or her artistic accomplishments. Like different high-profile awards reveals, the Grammys has needed to reckon with intense scrutiny for its lack of various illustration in recent times, significantly within the wake of each the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter actions.
At this yr’s ceremony, although, girls had been the point of interest. The vast majority of the performers had been girls, and, for the primary time in Grammys historical past, each televised award went to a girl artist.
With a trophy for Midnights, Taylor Swift turned the primary girl to win album of the yr 4 occasions. Girls swept historically male-skewing classes together with rock and various, with boygenius cleansing up within the former classes and the Hayley Williams-fronted Paramore taking the latter. Tracy Chapman made a triumphant return to the general public eye, performing her beloved 1988 track Quick Automotive with Luke Combs, whose cowl of the track was an sudden nation juggernaut final yr. And Joni Mitchell, launched by good friend and collaborator Brandi Carlile, carried out on the ceremony for the primary time, singing her traditional Each Sides Now.
Did the 2024 Grammys mark a sea change for ladies artists?
Marissa R. Moss, a journalist and creator of Her Nation, is hesitant to declare that this yr’s ceremony marked a real shift in illustration for the Grammys.
“I believe it is really easy to take a look at this yr’s monumental success for ladies and say, ‘Okay, the work is completed,'” she tells BBC Tradition. “I believe that fireplace [Bridgers] has reveals how vital it’s to nonetheless be pissed as hell. As a result of subsequent yr, issues might go proper again to the place they had been. It is not like that is the primary yr the place girls made distinctive artwork, it is simply the primary yr they had been all awarded for it. We will not neglect, although, that that is nonetheless principally confined to white girls in the case of the overall classes.”
A great instance of ladies of color being not noted of basic classes is SZA, who, with 9 nominations, was this yr’s most-nominated artist. Although nominated for album, track and document, SZA gained her three trophies within the R&B and pop classes, solely one among which was televised. Regardless of being a large business and significant success, her album SOS fell to Swift’s Midnights.
Cultural critic Hillary Crosley Coker cites USC Annenburg College for Communication and Journalism’s lately launched examine Inclusion within the Recording Studio? as proof that there’s nonetheless immense gender disparity within the music business. The examine compiled knowledge from 1,200 fashionable songs launched between 2012 and 2023 to find out simply how broad that disparity is. The conclusion? For each girl concerned in making a success track, there are three males.
“It needs to be one-to-one, proper? We outnumber these dudes on the precise Earth,” Crosley Coker tells BBC Tradition. “As a black girl in America, every time I see, ‘It is the primary girl to do that’, or, ‘It is the primary black individual to do this’, whereas I am joyful for that individual, I am taking a look at that business or that firm or that job and pondering, ‘So, y’all have simply been racist and sexist this complete time. And now you desire a cookie?'”
Change comes slowly, and each Moss and Coker really feel that significant illustration will solely be potential when there’s range on the high – within the business C-suite and the Recording Academy itself. In any case, whereas awards reveals just like the Grammys could really feel like a meritocracy to the typical viewer, they’re the tip merchandise of intense, costly publicity campaigns. Grammy voting itself an intensely political and calculated course of with a historical past of allegations of being rigged and favouring these with deep pockets.
Jay Z alluded to bias inside the Grammys system when accepting the worldwide influence award, decrying how Beyoncé held the document for many Grammy wins however had by no means taken residence an album of the yr trophy. And if Beyoncé cannot navigate the system, Coker says, artists with out large budgets or business connections do not stand a lot of an opportunity.
“You’ve gotten this complete business behind the scenes of the marketing campaign, the place persons are going to all these occasions and looking out additional fabulous,” Coker says. “They’re doing commercials to guarantee that their track remains to be within the heads of those who is likely to be voting. They’re emailing individuals like me and saying, ‘To your consideration’. They’re making an attempt to get cowl tales and advert placements… It is a classist factor, too. If you happen to’re additional poor, who’s going to pay for all of that?”
Moss hopes that, regardless of the music business nonetheless needing a large overhaul, gatekeepers will not less than see the worth in supporting girls’s inventive endeavors.
“What I do hope is that the assholes who’re solely involved with cash see that ladies are a great funding, and they need to allow us to win… as a result of it should make them richer,” she says. “I believe that is the one foreign money they appear to grasp. After a summer time the place Taylor and Beyoncé and Barbie made all the cash, perhaps males lastly began to consider we’re worthy of the funding.”
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