(Los Angeles) For a long time, musicians and critics have deplored the excessive absence of female artists at the Grammy Awards, the awards of the American music industry. On Sunday, they should win the most prestigious prizes, reflecting a change in mentalities and a diversifying scene.
Just for the album of the year, which will be contested in particular by Taylor Swift, SZA or Olivia Rodrigo during the 66e ceremony in Los Angeles, seven of the eight nominees are women or gender fluid artists.
“Before, female pop stars were the talk of red carpets. Now they’re fueling the conversation about the Grammys themselves,” notes Kristin Lieb, a professor at Emerson University specializing in music marketing and gender identities.
“This is a significant change. We talk more about the talent and charisma of women than about their bodies and their outfits,” she adds to AFP.
Taylor Swift, who has acquired the rank of global mega star, SZA, who garnered the most nominations (9) with her album SOS and its captivating success Kill Billand Olivia Rodrigo, a former Disney muse whose rock sounds are critically acclaimed, compete for both best album and recording of the year, awarded for overall performance of a song.
Just like Miley Cyrus and the supergroup boygenius, whose trio formed by Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus created a sensation with their cocktail of poetic pop-folk and indie rock.
Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish and rising star Victoria Monét are also there in the most prestigious categories (best album, recording or song). The only man to survive, the jack-of-all-trades jazzman Jon Batiste, big winner of the ceremony two years ago.
Kristin Lieb notes that the evolution is impressive, both because it concerns women and gender fluid or queer artists like the boygenius trio, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Janelle Monae.
At the statistical level, the change is notable. From 2012 to 2022, only 13.9% of nominees in major categories were women, according to a study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative think tank at the University of Southern California.
Locked in pop
These figures could resonate with the controversial remarks of the former boss of the Recording Academy, the organization representing the American music industry and organizer of the Grammys, Neil Portnow. In 2018, he said that women artists just had to “come forward” if they wanted more recognition.
In November, he was the subject of a legal complaint, accused of having drugged and raped an artist in 2018, which he denies.
Reacting to the announcement of the nominations in November, the current boss of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr, simply noted that “women have made some damn good music” and “our voters were clearly convinced”.
Most of these artists have well-established careers, which have gained depth and allowed them to explore varied styles, when women have often been categorized in pop music.
“A woman who sells well is destined to lose her original musical genre and she will be considered a pop star,” Kristin Lieb said.
“And generally speaking, pop music is considered something artificial or ephemeral,” adds the academic, who remains cautious about the evolution of mentalities, both in the industry and among critics.
Another expert, Christine Wisch, who teaches a course at Indiana University on the history of women in music since the medieval era, hopes that ultimately, “we will be able to observe art for what ‘he is’, without taking into account ‘certain identities’.
She explains that these students have a particular admiration for boygenius, a trio nominated in six categories, whose members readily mock the label of “women in rock”.
“As a musician and teacher, I can’t wait for the day when gender will no longer be a topic and we will no longer be surprised that women are the majority. »