Kim Tsuyuki
Arts & Entertainment Editor

If the nomination snub for the Weeknd’s After Hours was a precursor to how the 2021 Grammys would go, we shouldn’t be surprised with the ups and downs of the night.

While the Grammys reflected the new world we’re living in because of COVID-19 — with an outdoor setting and masked guests — it also reflected the fact that women dominated the music industry this past year. The pandemic challenged artists’ creativity and forced them to adjust to their new circumstances. During all of that, women created music to fill that ‘co-void.’ Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Taylor Swift, Chloe x Halle, Phoebe Bridgers, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Jhené Aiko, and Kehlani are just a few (more mainstream) artists who released critically-praised music last year. 

Image of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS
Billie Eilish took home her seventh Grammy. Image Courtesy of the NY Times.

Women artists took home awards in all of the four biggest categories of the Grammys. Billie Eilish won Record of the Year for “Everything I Wanted” (along with winning Best Song Written for Visual Media), which brings up the number of Grammys she has to seven — all before she turns 20. Taylor Swift took home Album of the Year for folklore, an album that came to fruition because of the pandemic. This marks Swift’s third win for Album of the Year, making her the first female artist to win this award three times in history. The only other artists who have achieved this are Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder. H.E.R. won Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe,” a song that was written over FaceTime in response to the death of George Floyd.

The Best New Artist category was packed with talent — Megan Thee Stallion, Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Cyrus, Chika, D Smoke, Doja Cat, and Kaytranda were all nominated. Megan Thee Stallion came out on top and took home the award. She’s the first female hip-hop artist to win the award since Lauryn Hill in 1999. Megan also took home the award for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “Savage” featuring Beyoncé. Speaking of Beyoncé, she made history by being the most awarded female artist, with 28 Grammys, because of her wins in Best Rap Song and Best R&B Performance with “Black Parade.”

Despite these wins, there were certainly some upsets. In Eilish’s acceptance speech, she said that she believes Megan Thee Stallion should’ve won, saying “Megan, girl . . . I was [going to] write a speech about how you deserve this, but, then, I was like, ‘there’s no way they’re going to choose me.’ I was like, ‘It’s hers.’ You deserve this. You had a year that I think is unstoppable. You are a queen; I want to cry thinking about how much I love you. . . . You deserve everything in the world, I think about you constantly. . . . You deserve it.” FINNEAS, Eilish’s brother, even tweeted, “When you’re happily waiting to hear ‘Savage.’” 

Image of Doja Cat
Doja Cat didn’t take home any awards, despite being a popular artist in 2021. Image Courtesy of Getty Images.

Doja Cat was a breakout artist in 2020 — and rightfully so. If you’re on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, there’s a guarantee you’ve heard one of her songs. For the 2021 Grammys, she performed a futuristic version of “Say So,” a song that partly contributed to her popularity. “Say So” went viral on TikTok after a dance was created by Haley Sharpe, which was later incorporated into the music video.

Fans are now comparing Doja Cat’s Grammy snubs to Nicki Minaj. Minaj has been nominated 10 times for a Grammy, but has yet to win one. “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my Best New Artist award when I had seven songs simultaneously charting on Billboard, & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade—went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver,” Minaj tweeted out in November 2020.

Doja was a hot topic and a strong force all year. Her sophomore album Hot Pink debuted at number 19 on the U.S. Billboard. “Say So” peaked at number 53 in September 2020; “Streets” (my favorite song from the album) peaked at number 26 in February 2021, and has been on the Artist 100 Chart for 59 weeks.

Another huge upset for the night was Phoebe Bridgers not winning anything in the four categories she was nominated for. Bridgers was nominated for Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Alternative Music Album. Elton John praised Punisher, Bridgers’ sophomore album, saying “[her] album is like an old friend. It’s like a tapestry. I have records in my life that are reference points, and I think Punisher’s one of those reference points. I can’t pay you a bigger compliment than that.” John also joked that he was going to hit someone if she didn’t win a Grammy (as he should). Punisher earned a 90 out of 100 on Metacritic, and Sam Sodomsky of Pitchfork called her album marvelous.

However, while Bridgers may have lost, she lost to three other, talented female artists. As mentioned before, Megan Thee Stallion won Best New Artist, and she had an amazing year, with 16 of her songs that peaked on the Top 100 on U.S. Billboard. Bridgers herself tweeted out, “Megan you’re a f—ing legend.” Brittany Howard won Best Rock Song, joining Hayley Williams and St. Vincent for being the only women to win in that category. Fiona Apple took home Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance. While fans were upset, they noted that Apple deserved the wins: “if Phoebe Bridgers was going to lose at the Grammys, I’m glad it was to a hot milf genius like Fiona Apple.” Apple won for her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which received a 98 out of 100 on Metacritic and was praised for being “unbound, a wild symphony of the everyday, an unyielding masterpiece” by Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork.

Image of Chloe x Halle
Chloe x Halle have been inventive during the pandemic but didn’t take home any awards. Image Courtesy of The Grammys.

Chloe x Halle, an up-and-coming R&B duo, deserved so much more. The pair were nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance, Best Progressive R&B Album, and Best R&B Song. They lost out on all three categories.

When I think of female artists being inventive during quarantine, Chloe x Halle are the first to come to mind. In a virtual performance for the TODAY Show, the pair “transformed their home tennis-court into an underwater dreamscape filled with ethereal backdrops, aerial camera work, and neon ensembles that provokes the revamped ‘90s aesthetic that Generation Z famously clings to,” as Karen Romero of the QC wrote. Their creativity continually shined through their music video for “Ungodly Hour” and their GLAAD Award performance of “Do It.”

Chloe said in an interview that they wrote and produced their sophomore album, Ungodly Hour, in their own home: “We did most of this album in our garage here in our home. We put a bunch of carpet down, we have our mic and our speakers and keyboards and guitars in there. It’s always such a good vibe.” However, Chloe x Halle seems to be taking the loss in stride. Chloe wrote, “I still feel like a winner” in an Instagram post, and Halle wrote, in another Instagram post, “What an honor it was to be nominated three times this year.”

Female artists had the biggest wins and the biggest upsets at this year’s Grammys. While Phoebe Bridgers, Doja Cat, and Chloe x Halle didn’t get any wins, other women still made history. Women are making strides in the music industry, and 2020 was their year. A large portion of the music that got me through last year was made by women (Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia was my personal album of the year), and I’m glad they dominated the Grammys. I guess we have to be on the lookout for Elton John, though; Phoebe Bridgers didn’t win a Grammy.

Featured Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Author

  • Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

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