It’s female power at the 2021 Grammys. Female solo artists or bands featuring women as main lead singers qualified across all five of the Grammy nominations in the best country album category. In addition, in two other divisions, best country album and best country solo performance, female-fronted music was awarded four out of five slots. Of course, the 80-to-100 percent imbalance is virtually the exact reverse of what a music fan would perceive on the airwaves.
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Do these influential and quite often all-consuming women’s premieres in two of the most male-dominated genres reflect a case of advocacy by the respective nominating committees of rock and country? Probably. But that may also be the case of a year in which the achievements of female musicians were indisputable, often without a direct involvement in undoing systemic patriarchy.
Here are the five nominations in the Rock category. Let’s see what these talented musicians have to say about their craft!
1.Stay High by Brittany Howard
“I knew immediately [the lyrics] were supposed to juxtapose how dreamy and playful and innocent and childlike the music was, like, to me the music is like sunlight,“ Howard explains, noting that she wrote the song in a sweltering greenhouse during a burst of inspiration.
2.Daylight by Grace Potter
“I just laid there in the bath and was just chanting,” Potter recalls. “At a certain point I figured, ‘This is kind of cool. I might use this mantra later,’ so I just recorded it in a little piece, and it ended up being the chorus that you hear on (‘Daylight’).” The chant — with its refrain of “I release you” — sat in her telephone voice memo file for awhile but was rescued when Valentine heard it and told Potter, “That’s crazy good. You can’t sleep on that. You should totally finish that idea”
3. “Shameika by Fiona Apple
“This is the thing, that’s who I am… I speak life on people. I do it now,” she said. “It didn’t stand out to me. But, oh my god, to her — and that’s what we gotta realise as humans. Sometimes, we don’t realise that something so small that you may not even, you might overlook it, it might be something major in someone else’s life because of how it makes them feel. At that time, she was like, ‘Shameika, you know, no one ever stuck up for me,’” said Fiona Apple.
4.The Steps by Haim
“We wanted to write something we could really perform — something up-tempo that felt like a karate kick to the face,” says Danielle of the band’s newest single.
5.Kyoto by Phoebe Bridgers
The bulk of “Kyoto’s” lyrics actually relate to Bridgers’ father, describing their relationship from childhood, and riffing off recent feelings since her parents’ divorce. Bridgers also lays bare her own superstition that, “songs make themselves true, kind of, in a way.” It’s a concept she has hinted at in the past, explaining to The New Yorker earlier this year: “Sometimes I’ll write a song, and I’ll be, like, ‘Oh, I don’t actually feel this way, but it’s a good line’,” only to reveal, “in retrospect, that’s exactly how I felt.”
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