Grammys: More Female Artists Nominated in Big 4 Categories After "Step Up" Controversy

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From left: Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae

The more inclusive nominees follow a 2018 ceremony in which only 17 women or female-led bands won awards and saw only six female artists nominated for album, record and song of the year and best new artist.

The nominations for the 61st annual Grammy Awards were revealed on Friday.

During the nominations announcement for the 2019 ceremony, it was revealed that women received more recognition in the major categories than they did in the previous year. The announcement follows criticism about the lack of women honored for their work during the 2018 ceremony. Of the 86 awards handed out in January, only 17 went to women or female-led bands.

The awards show also expanded the nominees in the top four categories — album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist — by including eight nominees instead of five. This change makes it possible for a wider representation of artists to be included in the running for the major awards.

Fifteen women are nominated in the big four categories, which is significantly more than the six women that were nominated in the same categories last year.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told reporters backstage at the 60th Grammy Awards that women needed to "step up" in order to be honored at the ceremony.

For the upcoming ceremony, the highly coveted album of the year category features Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy, Brandi Carlile's By the Way, I Forgive You, H.E.R.'s self-titled album, Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer and Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour among the nominees. Women outnumber men in the category, with Drake, Post Malone and Kendrick Lamar being their only male competitors. H.E.R., Monae and Musgraves are the only female producers honored in the category, while Laura Sisk was the only female producer honored for her work on Lorde's album Melodrama last year.

Cardi B and Carlile are nominated in the record of the year category, while Lady Gaga is nominated alongside Bradley Cooper for their collaboration "Shallow," Maren Morris is nominated with Zedd and Grey for "The Middle" and SZA is nominated with Lamar for "All the Stars." Gaga is the only female producer honored in the category, while no female producers were among the nominees in 2018.

Five female performers are nominated in the song of the year category, with Ella Mai, Carlile, Morris, Gaga and SZA to vie with Drake, Shawn Mendes and Donald Glover's musical alter ego Childish Gambino. SZA, Joelle James, Mai, Carlile, Sarah Aarons and Gaga are all nominated for their songwriting in the category, which is more than the three female songwriters nominated last year.

Women dominated the best new artist category, with Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith in the running. Luke Combs and rock band Greta Van Fleet are the only men nominated.

Three women are nominated in the best pop solo performance category: Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande and Gaga are up against Beck and Malone for the award.

Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato's song "Fall in Line" will compete with Tony Bennett and Diana Krall's collaboration "'S Wonderful"; Gaga and Cooper's "Shallow"; Zedd, Morris and Grey's "The Middle"; and Maroon 5 and Cardi B's "Girls Like You" for best pop duo/group performance.

Bennett and Krall's album Love Is Here to Stay and Barbra Streisand's The Music… The Mem'ries… The Magic! are the only female-led albums in the best traditional pop vocal album categories.

Women dominate the best pop vocal album category, with five of the six noms belonging to distaff performers. Cabello, Kelly Clarkson, Grande, Pink and Taylor Swift will contend with Mendes for the prize.

In January, Portnow implied that women do not have any disadvantages in the music industry. "The other thing that’s interesting today in terms of technology is nobody is beholden or stuck in a system where you’ve got just the label as a way to get your music heard. There’s so many opportunities today," he said after the awards ceremony. "So if someone’s passionate about it, doesn’t matter what your gender, genre, geography — do it yourself, take it from your heart and put it out there."

The exec now credits the criticism for this year's more inclusive nominations. "Reflection, re-evaluation and implementation have been the driving forces at the Recording Academy over the past year," Portnow on Friday. "From convening our Task Force On Diversity & Inclusion and launching our new community-driven membership model, to increasing the number of nominees in the General Field, and to playing a leadership role in the successful passage of the landmark Music Modernization Act, the Recording Academy has reaffirmed its commitment to music creators across all facets of our industry. And, it’s our awards process that has taken a front seat during this evolutionary period to ensure the Grammy Awards reflect the ever-changing needs of the creative community. We are proud of this year's nominations results and congratulate all of the talented and deserving nominees."

Portnow also spoke to Billboard about this year's nominees. “Trying to take a pretty broad view, I would say I’m very pleased and I think this is a great representation of the best music that was made this year,” he said. “I think we’re incredibly relevant and on point. I’m very proud of it, honestly.”

The 2019 Grammy Awards ceremony will be held Sunday, Feb. 10 at Los Angeles' Staples Center. The show will be broadcast on CBS from 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.