Dua Lipa gave an interview last night on the Grammys red carpet that quickly went viral. When asked by Ryan Seacrest what it means that the Best New Artist category was dominated by women this year, the “New Rules” singer replied, “It says we’re finally stepping up.” That might not seem buzzy on the surface, but remember what Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told Variety about the Grammys’ male-heavy lineup last year: “Women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.” Most people took Lipa’s soundbite as some thinly-veiled shade at Portnow; whether or not that’s the case is up for debate, but one thing is certain: Women owned the Grammys this year.
Let’s start with the actual wins, which included some historic moments. Cardi B became the first solo woman to take home the Best Rap Album award for Invasion of Privacy. (Lauryn Hill is the only other woman to win this award, in 1997 as part of the hip-hop group Fugees.) The “Money” performer was visibly moved during her acceptance speech, at one point joking, “I’m sorry, the nerves are so bad. Maybe I need to start smoking weed.”
Equally as stunned during her acceptance speech was Dua Lipa, who won Best New Artist (other nominees included Chloe x Halle, Greta Van Fleet, H.E.R., Margo Price, Bebe Rexha, Jorja Smith, and only one male: Luke Combs). “No matter where you’re from, or your background, or what you believe in, never let that get in the way of you and your dreams, because you deserve it,” she said, holding back tears. One of the women in Lipa’s category, H.E.R., went on to take home the prize for Best R&B Album, further fueling the girl-power vibes of the evening.
It was also a big night for Kacey Musgraves, whose critically-acclaimed Golden Hour took home Album of the Year, the evening’s top honor. She also won three awards in the country-music categories. “I think that women have a really necessary perspective to art, to music, and it’s really nice to see that getting a chance to be included,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, which reports a whopping 31 women took home Grammy Awards last night.
Another one of those women was Lady Gaga, a Grammys staple who used her acceptance speech for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance to make an important statement about mental health. “I’m so proud to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health issues,” she said. “They’re so important. And a lot of artists deal with that, and we’ve got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody that’s hurting don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.”
Let’s also not forget that Gaga took the stage alongside Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Alicia Keys for a segment that perfectly set the tone for the evening. Each woman gave a soundbite speaking to the healing and universal power of music. “Music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for everybody here,” Obama said, to the rapturous applause of the audience. Alicia Keys emceed the evening’s festivities, as well—and she crushed it.
And then, of course, there were all the show-stopping performances, the best of which came from female performers. The undisputed highlights were Cardi B’s lavish rendition of “Money” and Gaga’s glam-pop take on “Shallow.”
Of course, we’ve always known that Neil Portnow from The Recording Academy was wrong—women in music have been “stepping it up” for years. But if he still had any doubts, last night certainly shut that down.