2021 Grammys: Top Feminist Takeaways from a Women-Dominated Night

2021 Grammys: Top Feminist Takeaways from a Women-Dominated Night
(Illustration by Sarah Rosenberg)

Throughout history, top honors at the annual Grammy Awards have eluded women and people of color, disproportionately recognizing those who are white and male. Now, in 2021, women are center stage and being celebrated by the Recording Academy for their contributions, grind and hustle in the male-dominated field of music.

Here are some of the best moments in which this year’s Grammy Awards became a celebration of strong, talented female artists.

Billie Eilish Receives Second ‘Record of the Year’ Award

Continuing on her two-year winning streak, Billie Eilish took home two awards, including her second ‘Record of the Year’ trophy (she won the same award last year for her 2019 smash “Bad Guy”).

Getting on stage to accept her award, the 19-year-old singer admitted during her speech that she didn’t believe she would win, as she believed the Academy would declare fellow nominee, rap artist Megan Thee Stallion, victorious in this category.

“This is really embarrassing for me,” Eilish began. Directly addressing Megan Thee Stallion, nominated for “Savage” featuring Beyonce, Eilish said was going to write a speech about “how much you [Megan] deserve this,” but didn’t as she was sure she would not win over the rapper. The “Therefore I Am” singer then continued:

“You deserve this. You had a year that I think is untoppable. You are a queen, I want to cry thinking about how much I love you. You’re so beautiful. You’re so talented. You deserve everything in the world. I think about you constantly, I root for you always. You deserve it, honestly, genuinely, this goes to her.”

Eilish, who accepted the award alongside her brother Finneas, who produced and co-wrote the winning track with her, won the award for her song “Everything I Wanted,” released in November 2019. She performed the song earlier that night.

Watch Eilish’s full performance and acceptance speech:

Megan Thee Stallion: The Queen of ‘Savage’

Luckily for Megan Thee Stallion, she didn’t leave the ceremony empty-handed. The Houston MC lived up to her lyrics of being a “bad bitch” by taking home three Grammy Awards—and making “her”-story while at it.

During the pre-show, Megan Thee Stallion (born Megan Pete) received the Best Rap Performance award for her hit “Savage (Remix)” featuring Beyonce. The song was the only female-led track in the category this year.

But, arguably, the biggest award the 26-year-old hitmaker received that night was “Best New Artist”—the first award given during the actual ceremony. Beating out other artists such as Doja Cat, Phoebe Bridgers, D Smoke and Noah Cyrus, Thee Stallion become the first female rapper to win the coveted award since Lauryn Hill in 1999.

She also accepted the award for Best Rap Song alongside her “Savage (Remix)” collaborator Beyonce later that night.

Watch Megan Thee Stallion’s full acceptance speech(es) here:

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Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion Soak Up the Stage with “WAP”

As for the performances of the night, Megan, as well as her fellow female MC Cardi B, did not disappoint.

Megan started off with a performance of both her latest track “Body” and her “intersectional feminist” smash “Savage.” The performance was reminiscent of old-Hollywood and what Buzzfeed writer Allie Hayes described as giving off “huge Showgirls vibes”—but with a modern, Megan Thee Stallion-style twist.

A Cardi B performance followed: her most recent track “Up” with the help of some bright visuals. The Bronx-native owned the stage with her strong delivery and confident lyrics.

Cardi, 28, was then joined on stage by Megan Thee Stallion to perform their ode to female pleasure “WAP” live for the first time. Rife with some fantastic costumes and incredible, sexy and definitely NSFW choreography, it was definitely a performance to remember.

Watch the full performances here:

H.E.R Wins ‘Song of the Year’ for Black Lives Matter Anthem

Another example of The Grammys awarding Black power in music: The “Song of the Year” was awarded to R&B singer H.E.R for her Black Lives Matter protest song, “I Can’t Breathe”—for which certified chart-toppers like “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift, “The Box” by Roddy Ricch, and “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa were among the nominees.

The song was written and released in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, as well as other victims of police brutality. While not as commercially successful as others nominated—only reaching No. 20 on the R&B charts—was definitely the most impactful.

Upon accepting her trophy from comedian and Grammy host Trevor Noah, H.E.R (born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) spoke to the significance of her tribute and further called for racial equality:

“I’ve never been so proud to be an artist… We [H.E.R and singer-songwriter Tiara Thomas] over FaceTime… I didn’t imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact and it would possibly turn into change and I think that’s what this is about. That’s why I write music.”

Watch the full acceptance speech here:

Taylor Swift Makes Grammy “Her”-Story

Off the both critical and commercial success of both “Folklore” and its follow-up “Evermore,” Taylor Swift won the Grammy for Album of the Year, marking the third time the 31-year-old songwriter has won the award. (When receiving the honor in 2010 for her country-pop album “Fearless,” the then-20-year-old Swift became the youngest person to receive the award at the time. She won again in 2015 for her first all-pop record “1989.”)

While this was Swift’s only award of the six categories she was nominated for, the “Willow” singer ended up cementing her name with musical legends by becoming the first female artist to win ‘Album of the Year’ three times. Tying with musical icons Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, this latest era of her musical journey that has spanned over a decade has proven to be a success.

Watch Taylor Swift’s full acceptance speech and Grammy performance here:

Beyonce Slays—Again

Queen Bey once again reminds the universe of her superior reign over the musical and cultural landscape. With the most Grammy nods of any artist in 2021 at nine nominations, the “Single Ladies” icon swept up both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for her featured performance on “Savage (Remix)” with Megan Thee Stallion, as well as “Best R&B Performance” for “Black Parade.”

By the end of the night, Beyonce—with 28 Grammy wins under her belt—broke the record for the most Grammys won by a woman and the most Grammys won by any singer in history.

It truly is Beyonce’s world and we are all just living in it.

Blue Ivy: Youngest Grammy Winner in “Her”-Story

The golden apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Beyonce’s oldest daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, has already become a Grammy winner.

Blue Ivy Carter in “Brown Skin Girl.” (Beyonce / YouTube)

Winning her first Grammy for Best Music Video for “Brown Skin Girl”, the-nine-year-old is the second youngest winner in Grammy history. Even though Blue was not there to receive the award in person, her mother gave her and younger twin siblings Sir and Rumi a shoutout during her acceptance speech for Best R&B Performance, while discussing the importance of good media representation for Black men and women:

“As an artist, I believe it’s my job and all of our jobs to reflect the times. It has been such a difficult time so I wanted to uplift, encourage and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world.

“This is so overwhelming. I’ve been working for my whole life, since nine years old, and I can’t believe this happened. This is such a magical night. Thank you so much. I know my daughter is watching, two daughters and my son, y’all are all watching. Congratulations Blue. She won a Grammy tonight. I’m so proud of you, and I’m so honored to be your mommy, all of your mommys. Y’all are my babies. And I’m so proud of y’all. I love you so much, my rock.”

Let’s hear it for the ladies!

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Red Rosenberg is a former intern and current contributor at Ms.They are an autistic nonbinary lesbian. They prefer to go by they/them pronouns. They graduated from Los Angeles Pierce College in June 2020. They hold an associate of arts for transfer degree in journalism and two associates of arts degrees for arts and humanities, and social and behavioral science, respectively. They have previously worked at Pierce College's Bull Magazine and Roundup Newspaper.