A culturally incompetent Grammys

Kellie Nock

Every year it seems that the Grammy Awards miss a few marks, but this year felt particularly potent. We can talk about my disagreements on the winners until the cows come home (seriously, SZA didn’t win a single thing despite being nominated in five different categories?), but this is about something deeper.

In an industry where talented, unique female voices are a plenty, it was surprising how many women took home a solo trophy: just one. Alessia Cara won the honors of best new artist.

At an award show with artists like SZA and Lorde, who produce and record outstanding music, only one woman was awarded a trophy in an individual category.

Not Kesha, whose solo album she fought tooth and nail to release. Whose story came just before the advent of the #MeToo movement. Whose performance of “Praying” was so timely, so indicative of the current cultural climate.

Not SZA, who skyrocketed to notoriety for her voice, her lyrics and her ability to relate to young women in a personal and intimate way.

Not Lorde, who wasn’t even allowed to perform on stage alone, despite all of the other nominees for album of the year being able to.

No Lady Gaga, no Pink, no Kelly Clarkson. Women were surprisingly absent when it came to receiving awards. They were nominated, maybe to avoid further criticism.

The winners of the night? Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Kendrick Lamar took a few awards home as well. This is not to disparage these artists or their performances. This is simply to beg the question: Why did so few women receive solo awards?

The Recording Academy president Neil Portnow gave this answer.

“It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, 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 because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us–us as an industry–to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”

So, you heard him. All we have to do is “step up.” Apologies to Lorde, SZA, Kesha, Lana Del Rey, and others. You just didn’t “step it up” enough this year. But Bruno Mars did, and so did Ed Sheeran (who, by the way, didn’t even attend the ceremony.) 

Kellie Nock is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].