Women rule the night on stage at the Grammys 2019

Dua Lipa may have gotten off the slyest shade at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards.

While accepting the trophy for Best New Artist, she noted how honored she was to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists: “I guess this year we’ve really stepped up.”

She was referring to comments made last year by outgoing Recording Academy president Neil Portnow in the wake of the #GrammysSoMale criticism after 2018’s ceremony, in which only one woman won a major award.

Whether it was purely blatant damage control to be more inclusive in terms of performance slots or just a happy confluence that so many women made such great music in 2018 that it was simply impossible to program the show any other way, the 2019 ratio was certainly a refreshing change.

From the quintet of powerful women who opened the night — Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and former First Lady Michelle Obama joined host Alicia Keys, who was very visible throughout the three-hour and 15-minute telecast — to those who received tributes — Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin — it was very much ladies night at the Grammys.

Consider all of these performances:

Maren Morris, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, and Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town all paying tribute to Dolly Parton with the woman of honor showing how vibrant she remains at 73; Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, and Andra Day paying tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin; Diana Ross paying tribute to herself and celebrating her birthday a month early; Dua Lipa and St. Vincent in a beguiling duet; Kacey Musgraves offering all the colors of the “Rainbow”; Janelle Monae letting the vagina have a monologue with a bit of “Pynk” and a lot of “Make Me Feel”; Camila Cabello taking inspiration from her grandmother for her “Havana” staging; Chloe x Halle reviving “Where Is the Love”; H.E.R. telling her story with “Hard Place”; Cardi B making that “Money”; Brandi Carlile showing everyone what her fans have long known by flattening the Staples Center with “The Joke”; Lady Gaga wading into the “Shallow”; and J.Lo, doing her best to make the weird choice to have her pay tribute to Motown work somehow. From a sheer numbers standpoint, that has to be some kind of record.

Throw in major and/or multiple wins for Musgraves (four total including Album of the Year and Best Country Album for Golden Hour); Carlile (three including Best Americana Album for By the Way, I Forgive You); Dua Lipa (Best New Artist and also shared in the Best Recording with Silk City, Mark Ronson and Diplo); H.E.R. (Best R&B Album and Performance); Cardi B (the first solo female emcee to win Best Rap Album for Invasion of Privacy); and St. Vincent (Best Rock Song with Jack Antonoff) and that itself would’ve been remarkable.

But further down the ballot during the pre-telecast there were still more wins across genres, for the absent-with-cause Ariana Grande (Best Pop Vocal Album), Cecile McLorin-Salvant (Best Jazz Vocal Album), Tori Kelly (Best Gospel Performance/Song and Album), Lauren Daigle (Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song and Album), Claudia Brant (Best Latin Pop Album), and Lucy Kalantari & The Jazz Cats (Children’s Album). And that’s not even all of them. Emily Lazar made history by becoming the first woman to win the prize for Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) for Beck’s Colors.

Representation matters and it’s possible that each of these performances or wins was a galvanizing “see it so you can be it” moment for different viewers across the country.

Say what you will about the Grammys — and there’s plenty to bellyache about — but this year the music industry’s biggest event was somehow both savvily inclusive and supportive of the creativity of women of color, LGBTQ women, and women in general. Not a bad start. Who run the world? At least for one night, it was the girls. 

Related content:

  • Memorable moments from the 2019 Grammy Awards
  • Best performances from the 2019 Grammy Awards

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