During the music industry’s biggest night, women grabbed gramophones, performed pop hits and took aim at the Recording Academy’s misogynistic history.
First, the good news.
#1: Billie Eilish swept the big four
Eilish took home Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year at the 2020 Grammys, making history as the first woman and second person ever to claim “the big four,” the youngest artist to ever win album of the year and the second-youngest person to ever win a Grammy.
When Eilish came to the stage to accept the Album of the Year award, the first thing she did was compliment one of her fellow nominees, Ariana Grande.
“‘thank u, next’ got me through some shit,” Eilish said, referring to the pop star’s recent hit—and Grande responded from the audience, waving her arms as if to say that she would not have wanted the awards to go any other way. Grande and Eilish, though technically competing for the title, managed to spark a powerful display of female solidarity and support that all of us should celebrate.
3. The nominations included lots of women and people of color
Two years ago, the Grammys were all too male. This year, women comprised more than half of the nominees of each of the big four awards this year, beating out the boys for once.
4. Female artists slayed their performances
Ariana Grande performed a medley of her songs at the event—complete with a supporting orchestra, flirty dancing and her elegant vocals. Demi Lovato, choking up a bit on vulnerable lyrics she wrote just before an overdose, debuted her song “Anyone” by belting with desperation and vocal control. Camila Cabello tugged at parents’ heartstrings, making her dad cry while singing about how he was the first man she ever loved. Honorable mentions? I’m With Her, Nicola Benedetti and Yola.
Now, the controversy.
Less than two weeks before the Grammys, Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan was placed on leave for allegedly being a bully in the office. In response, she filed a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission exposing the misogyny and corruption within the academy.
The report included details of sexual harassment she received from the company’s entertainment lawyer, rape allegations involving the former academy CEO Neil Portnow—who has publicly criticized female musicians in the past—and a pay gap between men and women holding the same positions.
Dugan has been addressing diversity and inclusion measures within the academy since her hiring in August. Her lawsuit continues such efforts, exposing the wrongdoings of the company and its employees to advocate for changes for the better. While the academy announced new diversity initiatives just before the awards show on Sunday, Dugan’s team considers the announcement to be a reactionary, meaningless response to the lawsuit.
Taylor Swift was supposed to perform her feminist track “The Man” at the Grammys, but her performance was cancelled, likely in light of the controversy of Dugan’s exit. Swift’s team did not provide an explanation for the cancellation, but the song might have stirred up tension on an otherwise positive Grammys night.