Clash of the (Female) Titans
Women dominate the major Grammy nominations so thoroughly this year that in the ceremony’s three most prestigious categories — album, record and song of the year — the winners are, mathematically, almost certain to be female.
Swift, Rodrigo and SZA, three of the most popular and influential pop artists working today, will face off against one another for each of the top awards, with projects that had big sales and plenty of critical respect. Their major competition includes yet more young women: Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Monét, Eilish and Lipa (both for tracks on the blockbuster “Barbie” soundtrack), Janelle Monáe and the arena-filling indie trio boygenius (Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus).
In fact, the only male performer on the ballot in the top categories is Jon Batiste, the eclectic former bandleader of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” Adored by musicians and a household name from his years on TV, Batiste nevertheless has had very little chart success, which makes him a long-shot contender on Grammy night — though far from an impossibility (more on that later).
In optics, at least, the predominance of female artists helps the Grammys. Not so long ago, women were far less visible on the show, which became a major talking point for critics of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys. At the 2018 awards, for example, while the #MeToo movement was roiling the entertainment industry, only one woman won a solo award during the all-important televised portion of the show (Alessia Cara, for best new artist).
Though the nominations honored young women, there are still gripes in the industry about the lack of recognition in the top categories for country or Latin music, two genres that had extraordinary success last year.
A Split Decision?
One scenario is that the top awards could wind up divided among two or three female stars, an outcome that would serve both the artists and the Grammys: Multiple performers get triumphant moments at the mic, while the Grammys recognize a diverse crop of female stars without favoring any one.