GRAMMYs: How do singers establish themselves in this sexist industry?

Like Miley Cyrus, we sang it, and even raved about it last year: “I can buy me flowers, write my name in the sand…” An ode to happiness and self-esteem Bhajan, which is celebrated with great pomp all over the world. “A year ago, “Flowers” ​​began to make people happy, and it made me happy, thank you all! » Miley gushed on Instagram in mid-January. It must be said that a year after the song’s release Years later, the raspy-voiced former Disney princess can buy much more than a bouquet: No. 1 in the entire world, “Flowers” is nominated in all categories of the GRAMMY Awards, the awards that reward pop giants and you-know-what about music. Installed in the temple of.

What’s unheard of this year is that Miley’s competitors in the most coveted categories – Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Performance of the Year – are all… competitors. They are Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, SZA, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Janelle Monáe and even the Phoebe Bridgers-led rock group Boygenius. Only one person has managed to get into these prestigious categories: the talented singer and pianist Jon Batiste, who blends soul and jazz like no other. For the rest of you, don’t look: Women are everywhere, and they’re guaranteed to dominate the 66th ceremony in Los Angeles on February 4. Even the Latin Grammy Awards, which took place in Seville last November, honored female artists (Shakira, Natalia Lafourcade, Karol G…) in the most popular categories, usually reserved for male artists. .

Women, pushed aside?

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The last time we saw such a tide of women was twenty-five years ago in 1999. Lauryn Hill won almost everything in her path, and for the first time ever there was no man in the Album of the Year category. Celine Dion, winner of the Best Song award for “My Heart Will Go On”, also made an enthusiastic comment: “It’s amazing that there are so many women who are involved in politics and show business, it can only do us good! However. In the years that followed, female presence at the top of the music profession became rare, if not disappeared. The 2018 vintage was almost entirely male (only one award in the major categories was given to a woman, Alessia Cara, Best New Artist), provoked this unflattering comment from Grammys boss Neil Portnow: “Women just have to ‘move’. » (A musician has also filed a complaint against Portnow for rape and chemical submission for an act that allegedly occurred five years ago.)

But can they really do this in a deeply sexist industry that is still slow to examine its conscience after #MeToo? Let’s take Beyoncé, the artist who has won the most Grammy Awards in history (32!), but all, or almost all, in minor categories. Although last year he competed in the Best Album category with “Renaissance”, the award was ultimately won by Harry Styles, who was embarrassed around the edges with his friendly “Harry’s House”. Unlike cinema, which has begun to change, music remains a field largely dominated by men, with sometimes regressive attitudes about the place of women.

The Jann Wenner case is revealing in this regard. We call him “Temple Custodian”. Co-founder of the magazine “Rolling Stone”, he also co-created and chairs the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2020, a kind of American music pantheon, where 90% of the jurors are men (it’s almost the same). Grammys: 70% of voters). For more than fifty years, Weiner and his colleagues have set the standards for “good” music. Last September, this powerful member of the industry, 77, published a compilation of his greatest interviews, titled “The Masters”. When a journalist asked him why no women appeared in the summary, Weiner replied: “None of them expressed themselves in a sufficiently intellectually structured way. » The same applies to black artists like Stevie Wonder or Otis Redding, who, according to Weiner, “don’t express themselves at the same level” as Bob Dylan or Mick Jagger. Due to sexist and racist statements, Surprised Weiner was removed from the board of directors of the institute where he sat. And to help the public understand why, even in 2024, only 8% of the artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are women…

important issues

John Parra/Getty Images for Live Nation

John Parra/Getty Images for Live Nation

However, female artists are always “moving”. Every musical revolution has its pioneer: What would rock’n’roll be without Big Mama Thornton or Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Gospel without Mahalia Jackson? And rap without Sylvia Robinson, creator of the genre’s first hit, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang? Some people even tried to turn the tables and avoid the decision of these temple protectors. This is the case of the Riot Grrrls, a feminist punk movement in the early 1990s. Fed up with being mocked by their fellow bullies who leave neither the stage nor the pit, these handful of young women decide to create their own artistic niche. And double down on their cultural vision with a political manifesto: “Because we, girls, we want music and books and fanzines that speak to America, that we feel included in (…). Because we want That girls should watch/listen to other girls’ work so that they can compare our skills and criticize/appreciate each of us. Because we do not want to internalize (masculine) standards of what should or should not be. Radical, riot grrrls have created their own principles on the margins of the counterculture.

Entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an opportunity that can change your life

Other artists are more practical. Thus Courtney Love: “We can say that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a big thing,” wrote the group’s founder Hole in a column published in “The Guardian” in March 2023. But as abusive as this institution may be, it remains a shield against the anonymity that many female musicians face, whether chasing awards or spitting on them. Because it’s always the same thing: these are the institutions that write history with a capital H. Getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame impacts the price of your tickets, the number of concerts you play, your releases. Album. This is an opportunity that can change your life, it’s the difference between opening for a second-rate comedian at a regional casino or getting the headlining act at a major festival. » The issues of representation are primarily political and financial.

Of the 185 albums awarded since 1985, only 32 have been signed by women.

And then in France? Our Victoires de la Musique follow the American trend: they have largely favored male talents while disadvantaging female artists. And this, from the first edition in 1985, where only 20% of the nominees were women. In the late 2000s, it was even worse, only 16%. Another example, on 9 out of 38 occasions Song of the Year has been won by only a female artist, and four of these wins actually awarded to a mixed duo (Celine Dion and Garou in 2002, Axl Red and Reynaud, Vita and Slimane in 2020, Camille Lellouche and Grand Corps Malade in 2021). The same applies for Best Albums, which have long been divided by musical genre: Of the 185 albums awarded since 1985, only 32 have been signed by women.

But since 2018 the Victoires de la Musique have found a trick: gender as many categories as possible. In fact, the Female Artist of the Year award can only be won by a woman, just like Female Revelation or Most Streamed Album by an Artist. Should we have thought about it! That adds up to the statistics: This year, like last year, women represent nearly half of enrollments. Quota policy to compensate for gender discrimination behind the scenes? In any case, the next High Mass, which will be live on France 2 on February 9, should celebrate Jaho de Sagazan, Clara Yse, Jain, Aya Nakamura and even Véronique Sanson.

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