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Let 2019 Be the Year Grammy Voters Step Up for Women (Column)

Sing it high and sing it low, got a feeling in my soul … that it’s Grammy time!

The vital question looming over this year’s show, on Feb. 10, is whether the Grammys will give enough love to female artists. As you may recall, last year the Recording Academy was rightfully slammed when the list of nominations in the Grammys’ marquee categories revealed a woeful lack of female representation. The hashtag #GrammysSoMale went viral when only one woman — Alessia Cara — took home a solo Grammy at the ceremony, for best new artist. The shutout of artists like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Kesha was indicative of the underlying sexism that has permeated the music business for decades.

After the telecast, when Variety asked Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow what needed to be done about the dearth of female artists and executives, he made matters worse by putting the onus on women, saying they needed to “step up.” After a s—storm of backlash, he later claimed he had misspoken, but as our music editor, Jem Aswad, pointed out, “the damage was done.” Shortly after the controversy, Portnow announced he would be departing in July 2019, and the Grammys set up an internal task force to boost diversity and inclusion.

That brings us to the present. Of this year’s lineup, six of the eight nominees for new artist are women; five out of eight best album nominees are by female artists, with a sixth being the soundtrack compilation of “Black Panther,” featuring female performers; five of the eight nods for song of the year include women; and five of the eight for record of the year include female artists.

Our amazing cover subject, Brandi Carlile — the most nominated female artist of the year — is the only musician other than Drake and Kendrick Lamar to be nominated for six or more Grammys. Variety writer Chris Willman says it well in his profile of the 37-year-old artist: “No one presents a better case study in stepping up than Carlile.”

Now, let’s see if Grammy voters in this so-called Year of the Woman will actually step it up on awards night.

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