Time to step up: On music’s biggest, most sexist night

Zahraa Assaf
Layout Editor

Only 9.3 percent of nominees at the Grammy Awards between 2013 and 2018 were women, according to a new study on gender and racial figures in pop music conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. This year’s Grammy Awards were not an exception to being blatantly sexist.

“Music’s Biggest Night” was a never-ending saga of embarrassment, disappointment and chaos. Despite the fact that, for the first time in Grammy history, there were no white men nominated in the Album of the Year category – and the recognition of hip-hop rose to the top categories – the Recording Academy still failed to follow through with the nominating committee’s initial ideas. The voting membership gave all the top awards to non-hip-hop nominees, furthering the idea that the Grammys are merely a populist contest. Bruno Mars taking home Album of the Year – beating out Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, as well as Lorde (who was the only woman nominated for this category) – says a lot about the backwards and traditional mindsets of the voting committee. Mars won 6 more (may I say, undeserved) awards, including top categories such as Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Jay-Z, the most nominated artist, arriving with 8 nominations in total, went home empty-handed. While Ed Sheeran, who happened to be the only man nominated in the category of Pop Solo Performance, won the award, beating Kesha’s powerful “Praying” – which deserved the moment of acknowledgment for her bravery and strength. Despite attendees showing solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault by wearing white roses, this Grammy loss was a missed opportunity to solidify and emphasize this symbolic solidarity.

Viewers sat through multiple unsolicited performances by U2, when the band had not even been nominated for any awards, while nominated tastemakers such as Lorde, the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, weren’t even allowed to perform solo. Grammys President Neil Portnow claimed, nevertheless, that there wasn’t time for a Lorde performance, in his comments after the show, specifically after the uproar of viewers and critics with respect to the male-dominated show.

This not only speaks to the Grammys’ irrelevance but also its sexist nature. Portnow urged women to “step up” if they sought recognition in the music industry, to which Pink responded by saying: “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up.’ Women have been stepping up since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside… When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women step up every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal.”

The televised award show went down nearly 24% in total viewers from last year. Considering all the mishaps and wrong-doings throughout the night, this fact is not surprising. The music industry will no longer be taken seriously and the Grammys will remain irrelevant until The Recording Academy “steps up” and recognizes its explicit, insensitive, and outdated racial and sexist biases.

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