The Grammys took a lot of heat this past year for how they treated female musicians. Only one woman was nominated for Album of the Year (Lorde for “Melodrama”), and she wasn’t even offered the chance to perform solo during the telecast. Then after receiving complaints about women being underrepresented among the winners recording academy president Neil Portnow told female artists to “step up.” Now the Grammys have expanded the general-field categories from five to eight, and they have created a task force to improve academy inclusiveness. Could 2019 be the year of women?
Only once in history has the Album of the Year race been entirely dominated by women: 1999, when the nominees were Madonna (“Ray of Light”), Sheryl Crow (“The Globe Sessions”), Shania Twain (“Come on Over”), the Shirley Manson-fronted band Garbage (“Version 2.0”) and the eventual winner Lauryn Hill (“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”).
In other years there are usually at least one or two women nominated, but it’s common for men to dominate the race. In the 21st century alone Album of the Year was a clean sweep for me in 2001 and 2013, and almost a clean sweep in 2009 when the only lead female artist nominated was Alison Krauss for her collaboration with Robert Plant (“Raising Sand”) — they ended up winning.
The good news this year is that there are already a number of high-profile women with critically acclaimed albums for voters to choose from.
Janelle Monae‘s “Dirty Computer” is her third studio album and her first since 2013. That means it’s also her first since she experienced big-screen acting breakthroughs in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” in 2016. That coupled with the album’s glowing reviews (89 on MetaCritic) makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Kacey Musgraves already has a couple of Grammys in country categories, but she’s hoping her fourth studio album, “Golden Hour,” will get her into the Album of the Year race for the first time. Like Monae she scored 89 on MetaCritic, which may make her tough to ignore.
Cardi B broke out with her first two Grammy noms earlier this year: Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for her breakthrough single “Bodak Yellow.” But her album “Invasion of Privacy” wasn’t released until 2018, so it’s now eligible for these awards. And it wasn’t just a hit, it was also a critical darling with an 84 score on MetaCritic.
Beyonce might get another chance. She has won 22 Grammys, but not Album of the Year despite previous attempts. She has contended three times (“I Am…Sasha Fierce” in 2010, “Beyonce” in 2015, “Lemonade” in 2017). And a couple of those losses were controversial. This year she and her husband Jay-Z dropped their surprise collaborative album “Everything is Love” to more strong reviews, so the recording academy has the opportunity to finally make it up to her.
The Grammys might also want to make it up to Pink, who was vocal in her criticism of Portnow after his “step up” comment. She has 3 Grammys out of 19 nominations, but she has only been nominated once as a lead artist in the general field (Song of the Year for “Just Give Me a Reason” in 2014), and never for Album of the Year. This year she’s eligible for “Beautiful Trauma,” which debuted last October and has gone platinum.
And we mustn’t forget about Taylor Swift, whose “Reputation” precedes her. She was the first woman ever to win Album of the Year twice as a lead artist (“Fearless” in 2010, “1989” in 2016). Her latest album received solid reviews (71 on MetaCritic) and sold more than a million copies in its first week alone in an industry where traditional record sales have diminished over time. The industry might want to reward her yet again for that achievement alone.
That’s just scratching the surface of this year’s Grammy race. Make your predictions here, and come back to update your picks as often as you like before nominations are announced this fall. We’ll be adding categories and contenders in the coming weeks and months.
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