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Female voices take center stage

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Grammys shaping up to be the year of women

NEW YORK, Dec 8, (Agencies): After being nearly muted at this year’s ceremony, the 2019 Grammys are shaping up to be the year of the woman, with powerful female voices representing the majority in two of the top categories.
Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R. and Janelle Monae, performers who play instruments, write or co-write all of their songs and are also listed as producers on their projects, earned nominations for the coveted album of the year.
They are joined by singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Brandi Carlile, whose recent album is critically acclaimed and scored nominations in the big three categories, and Cardi B – a former stripper, social media darling and reality star who has become a pop culture sensation now competing for both album and record of the year.
Nominees for album of the year at the 2018 Grammys only included one woman – Lorde – and she was not given a performing slot on the show. The only woman to win a solo award during the televised broadcast was best new artist winner Alessia Cara. But this year the category has been expanded from five to eight contenders, and five are powerful female acts.
“I love being in the company of genius women and I think that every woman that is nominated has contributed so much excellent work and heartfelt work and truthful work this year, and it’s just deserving,” Monae said in an interview with The Associated Press after Friday’s nominations were announced.
Six of the eight best new artist nominees are women, including H.E.R.
Monae gave a powerful speech at the 2018 Grammys ahead of Kesha’s emotional and striking performance celebrating sisterhood and women’s rights. Monae said back then she was hoping to see the upcoming Grammys make a change.
“This is what I envisioned. This is what I imagined. I imagined us having a stronger presence this year,” she said. “I’m so proud of them and I can’t wait to see them at the Grammys and celebrate them and let them know that they have my support, win or lose, we are stronger together and it’s incredible to see women who are so in control of their narrative.”
“Dirty Computer”, Monae’s fourth full-length album, features the singer and guitarist working behind-the-scenes to craft the right songs and style: “I did produce and engineer a lot of this record. I had a perspective and a vision that only I could sit down and execute.”
Other women nominated this year have multiple roles on their own albums. Musgraves, also a guitarist, co-produced her entire album, “Golden Hour”, which earned four nominations, including best country album, best country solo performance (“Butterflies”) and best country song (“Space Cowboy”).
“I knew I wanted to do something different than what I had been doing. I was craving the time to explore and just find that creative center again. Like when I first moved to Nashville and I just wrote every day for years and stumbled across songs that really meant something to me,” Musgraves, who worked on the album for a year and a half, told the AP on Friday. “I feel like I learned a lot about myself in making this record and I feel like I got the heart of my own matter more so than I ever have.”
This year’s nominees mark a departure from the Grammys held earlier this year, where Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow was criticized when he said women need to “step up” when asked about the lack of women in the top categories. He later acknowledged that it was a “poor choice of words,” and it forced the academy to launch a new task force focused on inclusion and diversity.
Kendrick Lamar and Drake are the top Grammy contenders for the 2019 show, earning eight and seven nominations apiece, respectively. They both are nominated in the album, record and song of the year categories.
But they are in competition with some top-notch female acts, including Lady Gaga, SZA, Maren Morris, Ella Mai and Carlile, nominees in either song or record of the year, or in both.
The singer H.E.R., who earned five nominations, is the only best new artist contender to receive an album of the year nomination. In best new artist, she’s one of six women nominated for the prize, along with Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Chloe x Halle and Jorja Smith.
H.E.R. not only co-wrote and co-produced each song on her self-titled album, she also plays guitar and piano.
“That’s inspirational for other young women. Like, ‘You can do it. You can be a producer. You can play an instrument,’” she said on Friday. “I had to work twice as hard. I had to earn my respect as a musician growing up as a little girl because you don’t expect a little black girl to pick up the electric guitar. So, to be in that position where I can tell other little girls, ‘You can do this too’ – it’s special.”
Monae, who scored a best music video nomination for “PYNK” – which she shares with director Emma Westenberg and producer Whitney Jackson – recalls filming the video for the song celebrating womanhood.
“There were so many women on set that day and it was magical. We were uplifting each other and telling each other how much we loved each other and just celebrating all that we are,” she said. “I’ll never forget that.”
A list of nominees in the top categories at the 61th annual Grammy Awards, announced Friday by The Recording Academy.
n Album of the year: “Invasion of Privacy”, Cardi B; “By the Way, I Forgive You”, Brandi Carlile; “Scorpion”, Drake; “H.E.R.”,H.E.R.; “Beerbongs & Bentleys”, Post Malone; “Dirty Computer”, Janelle Monae; “Golden Hour”, Kacey Musgraves; “Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By”, Kendrick Lamar.
n Record of the year: “I Like It”, Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin; “The Joke”, Brandi Carlile; “This Is America”, Childish Gambino; “… Plan”, Drake; “Shallow”, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper; “All the Stars”, Kendrick Lamar and SZA; “Rockstar”, Post Malone and 21 Savage; “The Middle”, Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey.
n Song of the year (songwriter’s award): “Boo’d Up”, Ella Mai, DJ Mustard, Larrance Dopson and Joelle James; “In My Blood”, Shawn Mendes, Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris and Geoffrey Warburton; “The Joke”, Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth; “This Is America”, Childish Gambino and Ludwig Goransson; “… Plan”, Drake, Noah “40” Shebib, Boi-1Da, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan and Ron LaTour; “Shallow”, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt; “All the Stars”, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears and Anthony Tiffith; “The Middle”, Zedd, Grey, Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson and Marcus Lomax.

n Best new artist: Chloe x Halle; Luke Combs; Greta Van Fleet; H.E.R.; Dua Lipa; Margo Price; Bebe Rexha; Jorja Smith.
n Best pop solo performance: “Colors”, Beck; “Havana (Live)”, Camila Cabello; “God Is A Woman”, Ariana Grande; “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?)”, Lady Gaga; “Better Now”, Post Malone.
n Best pop duo/group performance: “Fall In Line”, Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato; “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, Backstreet Boys; “’S Wonderful”, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall; “Shallow”, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper; “Girls Like You”, Maroon 5 and Cardi B; “Say Something”, Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton; “The Middle”, Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey.
n Best pop vocal album: “Camila”, Camila Cabello; “Meaning of Life”, Kelly Clarkson; “Sweetener”, Ariana Grande; “Shawn Mendes”, Shawn Mendes; “Beautiful Trauma”, Pink; “Reputation”, Taylor Swift.
n Best traditional pop vocal album: “Love Is Here to Stay”, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall; “My Way”, Willie Nelson; “Nat ‘King’ Cole & Me”, Gregory Porter; “Standards (Deluxe)”, Seal; “The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic!”, Barbra Streisand.
n Best dance/electronic album: “Singularity”, Jon Hopkins; “Woman Worldwide”, Justice; “Treehouse”, Sofi Tukker; “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides”, SOPHIE; “Lune Rouge”, TOKiMONSTA.
n Best rock album: “Rainier Fog”, Alice In Chains; “Mania”, Fall Out Boy; “Prequelle”, Ghost; “From the Fires”, Greta Van Fleet; “Pacific Daydream”, Weezer.
n Best alternative music album: “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino”, Arctic Monkeys; “Colors”, Beck; “Utopia”, Bjork; “American Utopia”, David Byrne; “Masseduction”, St. Vincent.
n Best urban contemporary album: “Everything Is Love”, The Carters (Beyonce and Jay-Z); “The Kids Are Alright”, Chloe x Halle; “Chris Dave and the Drumhedz”, Chris Dave And The Drumhedz; “War & Leisure”, Miguel; “Ventriloquism”, Meshell Ndegeocello.
n Best R&B album: “Sex & Cigarettes”, Toni Braxton; “Good Thing”, Leon Bridges; “Honestly”, Lalah Hathaway; “H.E.R.”, H.E.R.; “Gumbo Unplugged (Live)”, P.J. Morton.
n Best rap album: “Invasion of Privacy”, Cardi B; “Swimming”, Mac Miller; “Victory Lap”, Nipsey Hussle; “Daytona”, Pusha T; “Astroworld”, Travis Scott.
n Best country album: “Unapologetically”, Kelsea Ballerini; “Port Saint Joe”, Brothers Osborne; “Girl Going Nowhere”, Ashley McBryde; “Golden Hour”, Kacey Musgraves; “From A Room: Volume 2”, Chris Stapleton.
n Best jazz vocal album: “My Mood Is You”, Freddy Cole; “The Questions”, Kurt Elling; “The Subject Tonight Is Love”, Kate McGarry With Keith Ganz and Gary Versace; “If You Really Want”, Raul Midon With The Metropole Orkest Conducted By Vince Mendoza; “The Window”, Cecile McLorin Salvant.
n Best jazz instrumental album: “Diamond Cut”, Tia Fuller; “Live In Europe”, Fred Hersch Trio; “Seymour Reads The Constitution!”, Brad Mehldau Trio; “Still Dreaming”, Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade; “Emanon”, The Wayne Shorter Quartet.
n Best compilation soundtrack for visual media: “Call Me By Your Name”; “Deadpool 2”; “The Greatest Showman”; “Lady Bird”; “Stranger Things”.
n Producer of the year, non-classical: Boi-1da; Larry Klein; Linda Perry; Kanye West; Pharrell Williams.
n Best music video: “Apes–t”, The Carters; “This Is America”, Childish Gambino; “I’m Not Racist”, Joyner Lucas; “PYNK”, Janelle Monae; “MUMBO JUMBO”, Tierra Whack.
n Best music film: “Life In 12 Bars”, Eric Clapton; “Whitney”, (Whitney Houston); “Quincy”, Quincy Jones; “Itzhak”, Itzhak Perlman; “The King”, (Elvis Presley).
Every year, in the hours after the nominees for the Grammy Awards are announced, howls of outrage can be heard across the globe. With all of that in mind, they never lose their ability to surprise, and there is no shortage of surprises and snubs in this year’s nominee list.
Brandi who? H.E. who?: There’s little question that the biggest surprises are the big looks for veteran singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile – who has a whopping six nominations, second only to perennials Kendrick Lamar and Drake – and R&B newcomer H.E.R., who has five, along with superstars Lady Gaga, Cardi B and Childish Gambino. While both saw their number boosted with genre categories, both are up for Album of the Year; Carlile is also up for Record and Song of the Year and H.E.R. for Best New Artist.
Kacey is still country: Just a few years after Taylor Swift publicly transitioned from being a country artist to a pop artist, we see Kacey Musgraves making a similar move with her “Golden Hour” album, but still has nominations in the country category – something that did not happen with Swift’s “1989”.
Rebellion in Best Music Video: Interestingly, the most politically outspoken category is probably Best Music Video: We have not just two expected nominees – Jay-Z and Beyonce’s “Apes–t” and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” – but also Janelle Monae’s wildly same-sex-centic “PYNK”, newcomer Terra Whack’s “Mumbo Jumbo” and rapper Joyner Lucas’ “I’m Not a Racist”. Incidentally, all of the nominated artists in this category are people of color.
Taylor draws a short straw: There’s little question that the biggest snub goes to 10-time Grammy winner and 31-time nominee Taylor Swift, who has just one nod for her controversial “Reputation” album. While the album definitely challenged some longtime fans with its more-controversial music and tone, this may actually reflect a move for change within the Academy’s nominating committees, as Swift has dominated the Grammys in many past years.
Soundcloud/Emo rappers shut out: However you want to term it, the emo/Soundcloud rap associated with artists like Juice Wrld, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Lil Pump and the late XXXTentacion and Lil Peep has been the fastest-rising genre of recent years – yet those artists are completely absent from this year’s nominations, and no rappers at all are up for Best New Artist.
Just two nods for Ariana, Camila, Dua, Bebe: A wave of young female pop singers has hit the charts in recent years, and four of the leading lights are Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa and Bebe Rexha. Yet each has just two nominations, generally in pop categories, where many were predicting Best Album or Song or Record nods. It is especially surprising to see Grande and Cabello shut out of the big categories, as both had No. 1 albums and ubiquitous singles this year, particularly Cabello’s smash “Havana”.

By Mesfin Fekadu

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