The Grammys will honor female artists as Taylor Swift aims for a historic victory.

The Grammys will honor female artists as Taylor Swift aims for a historic victory.

A noteworthy group of highly talented young female musicians, covering a diverse range of genres from pop to R&B and indie-rock, will be honored at the Grammy awards on Sunday night. However, it is possible that Taylor Swift may dominate the top prizes.

The most popular categories are currently being led by women, with just one male artist, Jon Batiste, nominated for record, album, or song of the year. This week, significant research in both the US and UK recognized advancements in representation within the traditionally male-dominated and often sexist music industry. However, these studies also uncovered numerous instances of misogyny. The Grammy nominations serve as a reminder that female artists are being recognized and honored at the highest level.

SZA at the 2022 Grammy awards, where she won best pop duo/group performance for Kiss Me More alongside Doja Cat.View image in fullscreen

The leading nominee is SZA, a 34-year-old singer, with a total of nine nominations. This was after her second album, SOS, reached the top spot on the US chart. The album’s lead single, Kill Bill, may sound sweet, but it carries a dark theme of seeking revenge. Critics were captivated by the album’s diverse range of genres, which includes R&B, hip-hop, folk, and rock. They also praised SZA’s introspective lyrics about the complicated nature of love.

Taylor Swift may be the biggest winner of the night. Many believe that her success in the past year, with her album “Midnights” and the Eras tour, has earned her the admiration of the industry. Analysts predict that the tour will bring in at least $2 billion in revenue, which is more than twice the amount of Elton John’s highest-grossing tour. Swift is also poised to make history by becoming the first artist to win album of the year four times, currently tied with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon at three wins each. Additionally, her song “Anti-Hero” could potentially earn her first wins in the record and song of the year categories.

Victoria Monét, an R&B artist, has received seven nominations in her debut year as a solo musician. She was previously nominated for her songwriting on Ariana Grande and Chloe x Halle’s tracks. Monét’s two-year-old daughter, Hazel, is also nominated for her feature on the song “Hollywood,” making her the youngest nominee in the awards’ history. Other women with multiple nominations in the top categories include Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, and Boygenius, each with their own unique style of heartache and existential angst. If Eilish wins record of the year for the third time in five years, she will tie with Paul Simon and Bruno Mars for the most wins in that category by an artist.

Boygenius, a band comprised of indie-rock artists Phoebe Bridgers, SZA, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus, has been nominated for six awards. Their debut album was co-produced by Catherine Marks, who also has three nominations. However, she is the only female producer listed in the record and album categories, compared to 22 male producers such as Boygenius, Swift, Eilish, and Del Rey.

Marks described the nominations from the group as “astounding” and shared her approach to achieving a tangible sound for the album, titled The Record, which was recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studio in Malibu. She elaborated, stating that the studio’s warm and rich atmosphere enhanced the drum tones, making them more impactful and layered. The room itself became a key element in shaping The Record’s overall sound.

20 years ago, Marks started her career by relocating from Australia to London. She considers herself fortunate to have had supportive mentors in a time when she was one of the few female producers. She acknowledges that she has heard of terrible experiences in the industry, but personally, she did not face much misogyny. However, she does recall a culture where women were made to compete against each other, whether intentionally or not. Thankfully, she believes that the current culture is one where women uplift and support one another.

Catherine Marks with Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus of Boygenius at the Resonator awards, 30 January.

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Although men currently have a dominant presence in production, with all five producers in the non-classical category being male, Marks finds hope in the increasing number of women entering the field. She believes that this diversity will greatly benefit young female artists, who may have previously only worked with older white men. This lack of shared experiences could make communication challenging or hinder their ability to express their ideas comfortably. Thus, creating a welcoming environment is crucial. Fortunately, there is now a wider pool of producers to choose from.

In order to maintain progress, she advocated for government funding for interns at recording studios: “We need the next cohort to enter, and we want it to be more inclusive – not just in terms of gender, but also economic and racial diversity. I hope others have a quicker path to success than I did.” She has already received one award this week: the Powerhouse prize at the Resonator awards, which honors female producers and engineers. This is the first year for the awards ceremony – further evidence of an industry that is rapidly becoming more diverse.

The Grammy Awards event, emceed by Trevor Noah at the venue in Los Angeles, will feature musical performances from nominated artists such as SZA, Rodrigo, Eilish, and Travis Scott. However, the biggest welcome will likely be reserved for two legendary artists making a comeback.

After stepping away from touring and not releasing new music since 2007, there were concerns that Joni Mitchell’s career was finished, especially after she suffered an aneurysm in 2015 that left her needing to relearn how to walk. However, as she regained her health, she began hosting private jam sessions at her home with notable musicians like Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Harry Styles. In July 2022, she surprised fans with a performance at the Newport folk festival, and in June 2023, she made a full comeback to live performances at the stunning Gorge Amphitheater in Washington state. She also made her debut at the Grammys, despite having won nine awards in the past. However, some of her acclaimed albums such as Blue, Hejira, and Ladies of the Canyon were not recognized by the Academy.

Billy Joel is scheduled to take the stage, presumably debuting his first public performance of “Turn the Lights Back On” – his second solo single since 1993.

In 2023, British musicians had a successful showing at the awards ceremony. Harry Styles received the album of the year award and won in multiple pop categories, along with Adele and Sam Smith. Wet Leg and Ozzy Osbourne also achieved success by each winning two awards in the rock and alternative categories. However, this year’s nominations in the “big four” categories- record, song, album, and best new artist- only feature Dua Lipa and Fred Again as British representatives. But, Fred Again is joined by other British artists such as Aphex Twin, the Chemical Brothers, James Blake, Romy, and Calvin Harris in the dance and electronic genre categories.

Fred Again performing at Glastonbury 2023 – the British producer is a four-time Grammy nominee this year.View image in fullscreen

Mark Ronson, a producer from Britain, received four nominations for his work on the Barbie soundtrack. The soundtrack featured several popular songs such as “Dance the Night” which earned Dua Lipa a nomination for song of the year, and “I’m Just Ken”, a passionate and over-the-top power ballad performed by Ryan Gosling.

Fred Again, also known as Frederick Gibson, has received four nominations this year, joining Ronson as the most successful British artist. This further highlights his growing fame in the United States. Last year, his spontaneous DJ set at Coachella in California, where he performed with Skrillex and Four Tet, amazed the audience and became viral. It demonstrated his talent for creating intense emotions and even moments of poignancy within fast-paced beats.

In 2023, he demonstrated the subtler side of his talent by releasing a joint album with his former mentor Brian Eno. He has also collaborated with popular artists such as Ed Sheeran, contributing to Sheeran’s Grammy-nominated song “Bad Habits” in 2022. This summer, he will take on the main act at the Bonnaroo festival in the US and the Reading & Leeds festival in the UK.

If Swift takes home album of the year, the focus will rightfully be on her record-breaking accomplishment. However, this will also mean that her studio engineer, Serban Ghenea, will surpass her with the highest number of wins in that category, with a total of five wins. Ghenea, who was born in Romania and moved to Canada at the age of 6 in 1976, has previously won for Swift’s 1989 and Folklore albums, as well as Adele’s 25 and Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic. He has also won a total of 15 Grammys in other categories for his work dating back to Justin Timberlake’s debut album in 2002. With his work on Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts, Ghenea has another opportunity to break the all-time record.