61st Grammy Awards Attempt to “Step Up”


61st Grammy Awards Attempt to “Step Up”

This year’s Grammys bring feminine power to the stage



The 61st Annual Grammy Awards took place on Sunday February 10th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This rendition of the hallowed show was hosted by Alicia Keys, the fabulous singer of top hits “No One” and “Fallin.” The evening featured both up and coming artists and seasoned favorites like Janelle Monáe, Miley Cyrus, and Camila Cabello. Top awards went to Kacey Musgraves (Album of the Year), Dua Lipa (Best New Artist), H.E.R. (Best R&B Album), and Cardi B (Best Rap Album). Among the artists honored were country star Dolly Parton, Supremes stand out Diana Ross, and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. If you sense a feminine theme to the names mentioned, you are absolutely right. In an utterly necessary improvement from last year, this year’s Grammy Awards brought feminine power to the stage.

Only 17 of the 86 awards that were given last January went to women. Of the 17 awarded, Alessia Cara was the only solo woman to receive a Grammy (Best New Artist) that made it onto the TV broadcast. Not only were women unequally represented in the winner’s category, only 6 women were nominated in the most prestigious awards of the night, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. Other controversies arose surrounding the lack of performance from Lorde, the only woman to be nominated for Album of the Year, as well as the Academy’s response to the trending #GrammysSoMale tag that rose following the show.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow responded to criticism from the industry by releasing a statement claiming that women need to “step up” in order to be successful in the music industry. His references to the music business as “us as an industry” suggested a notion of male exclusivity that women had yet to permeate.

Popular recording artist Pink responded via twitter amongst a storm of backlash, stating that “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside”.

Other prominent female artists such as Charli XCX, Halsey, and Katy Perry also posted statements addressing Portnow’s quote; the artists shared that the lack of representation at the Grammys was not due to women not “stepping up,” but rather due to a failure to properly recognize women for their longstanding contributions to music. Given the significant prior controversy, the Academy had major work to do for this year’s awards.

The award show opened with Alicia Keys nonchalantly inviting her “sisters” onstage. The woman that appeared included Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Talk about woman power. The women exited the stage after speaking to the influence of music, but not before Keys left the crowd with the question, “Who runs the world?”.

Janelle Monáe, nominated for both Album of the Year and Music Video of the Year, performed her nominated song Pynk. In an ode to feminine sexuality, Monáe celebrated women’s bodies onstage during her upbeat performance.

Taking a hold of the Grammys in more ways than one, Cardi B stunned the audience with a performance that was uniquely hers and later went on to win Best Rap Album for Invasion of Privacy, among four other nominations. Sporting a leopard print bodysuit in her energetic production, Cardi performed her top hit Money while dancing upon a bejeweled piano and belting her unapologetic-for-being-a-badass-woman lyrics. Accepting her award later in the night as the first solo woman to ever win Rap Album, Cardi gave thanks to her daughter for pushing her to complete the album.

The award for Best New Artist primarily featured women. Nominated were Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha, and Jorja Smith along with Luke Combs and Greta Van Fleet. Dua Lipa came away with the win; in her acceptance speech, Lipa expressed her honor to be “nominated alongside so many incredible females”. She later threw shade at Portnow’s comment from the previous year, stating that “this year we really stepped up”.

Other highly notable winners include Kacey Musgraves who took home 4 major awards, Lady Gaga with Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, H.E.R. with Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance, and Ariana Grande with Best Pop Album. Improving from only 17 awards given last year, women took home 31 awards at the 61st annual Grammy Awards.


Elizabeth Gummer ‘21 (elizabethgummer@college.harvard.edu) looks forward to progress in the Grammy Awards.