Are The Grammys Snubbing Female Artists, Or Do They Need To Be Stronger?

To the delight of many, there are a slew of worthy and qualified female musicians nominated for coveted gramophones at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. R&B star SZA is the most nominated female musician this year with five possible wins, while Lorde is the sole female up for the Album Of The Year honor, putting her against albums carrying tons of weight over the past year. However, the general lack of female representation for the upcoming ceremony has eyebrows raising. Is this the fault of the Grammys, or do female artists simply need to come harder in terms of putting out bodies of work that will shake up the game?

When discussing the women up for awards this upcoming year, I feel like SZA has a strong shot to win in the R&B categories and as Best New Artist. She’s delivered an honest body of work that stirred up touchy conversations and to-the-bone feelings for her listeners. Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom proves that there is such a thing as a conscious female rapper. However, the competition she faces—JAY-Z’s 4:44, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., Migos’ Culture and Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy—is a bit too stiff in my eyes. I’d also like to see some female rockers getting some recognition, as there are a gaggle of talented bands being fronted by women (where is Paramore?). To be honest, Kehlani, whose album SweetSexySavage garnered favorable reviews, should have more than one nomination this year. Even Alicia Keys, who at one point was a Grammys darling, was completely shut out for her 2016 effort Here, which generated mostly positive reviews.

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Sometimes it looks like the Academy praises commercial impact, while at other times, it appears that true blue musicianship rules the day. As we’ve seen with last year’s Grammy Awards, commercial success, buzz, and safeness of the selection seems to contribute to the determining factor of who actually wins.

It appears that the usual suspects (Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Adele, and additionally, lesser-known breakout artists like SZA this year and Amy Winehouse in 2008) seem to generate the most nominations and buzz in the years they are up for consideration. Does the Grammys praise clout, or is this the level of female artistry to aspire to in the Academy’s eyes? We’ll never fully understand the nomination process, but the process can’t be entirely blamed for the lack of female representation.

While there has not been a shortage of strong female musicians throughout the years (Nicki Minaj as a hip-hop artist, Ariana Grande as a pop figure), I think we can all agree that we are missing more well-rounded female artists in the industry. One that has buzz for their work across the board, one who can deliver their message in a way that sets them apart, and one who brings something different to the table and turns the industry on its head.

Granted, some artists that we’d like to see take home an award may not be submitting their work for consideration, but those who want consideration need to bring fire that pushes the conversation, both musically and socially.

The women nominated for full bodies of work or singles this year have brought something special to that particular piece of work, something that isn’t just generic and made solely to sell. Look at “1-800-273-8255,” performed by Logic, Khalid and Alessia Cara. The song contributed to an increase in call traffic for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Ledisi’s resurgence into the game with her album Let Love Rule was met with open arms. Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” took the reality star with bars to the forefront of hip-hop.

READ: Beyoncé And Adele: When Twice As Good Still Isn’t Good Enough

These artistic choices are entirely on the musician, not the Academy. As previously mentioned, we’ll never quite grasp how the nominees are chosen, but a big fan base and a popular song may not be enough for recognition during this particular program. While I’d love to see more female artists grabbing Grammys, I’d also like to see more female artists coming with cojones and the sonic panache necessary to have the golden trophy within reach. Those cojones could come from pushing the marketing machine to its brink, working with the right producers and featured artists, or from pure artistry. While it should be artistry and smart decisions in the studio that should triumph, the industry has changed dramatically in terms of creativity and how to release music.

Granted, some artists that we’d like to see take home an award may not be submitting their work for consideration, but those who want consideration need to bring fire that pushes the conversation, both musically and socially.