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Women seize the Grammys spotlight, and big prizes

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- As the host of the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Alicia Keys did a bit in which she recalled one of her previous experiences at music's most prestigious awards show. The year was 2005, she said, and the R&B singer badly wanted to win song of the year for her tune "If I Ain't Got You."

Well, that didn't happen.

But evidently the guy who won that night, John Mayer, shared Keys' opinion that she deserved the award -- so he broke his Grammy into two pieces and gave her one, which she pulled out all these years later to show the audience.

Nobody was asking women to settle for half a Grammy this time.

Female artists took many of the biggest prizes at the 61st Grammy Awards, held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, including album of the year, which went to Kacey Musgraves for her psychedelic country disc "Golden Hour," and best new artist, which went to the dance-pop singer Dua Lipa.

Cardi B, the delightfully straight-talking New York MC, became the first solo female rapper to win the award for rap album with her smash "Invasion of Privacy." Other winners included H.E.R., who took R&B album with her self-titled debut, and Ariana Grande, whose "Sweetener" was named the year's best pop vocal album.

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The results represented a remarkable shift from 2018, when the Grammys were roundly -- and justly -- criticized for shutting women out of several major categories, despite the fact that women have reliably been the ones moving pop's needle in recent years.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow made matters worse after last year's show when he suggested that women should "step up" if they wanted to be recognized -- as though the systemic barriers women face were merely a trick of the mind, and failure to surmount them merely a lack of gumption.

Accepting her prize, Lipa grinned and said, "I guess this year we've really stepped up."

The academy's chosen winners this year -- and its chosen performers and honorees -- can be taken as evidence of an attempt at damage control. The recent dearth of female winners and Portnow's clumsy phrasing -- along with the Grammys' long-established blind spot when it comes to hip-hop -- have done serious harm to the show's reputation among young hitmakers.

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