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Girl Power and the Grammys

Monday, February 01, 2010

The buzz leading up to last night’s Grammy Awards was how a troika of young women, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga, dominated the nominations; and true to form, they walked off with a dozen awards between them, with Beyonce setting a record for a female artist on a single night with six awards and the 20-year old country-pop star Swift taking home the night’s biggest prize, Album of the Year.

Lucky for us guys that Kings Of Leon were around to snap up Record of the Year, for their catchy “Use Somebody.” Because otherwise it was definitely Ladies Night at the awards ceremony.

Or at least, that’s how it seemed. But once you got past the big awards, there were still many other categories where women didn’t even get nominations – all of the rock, hard rock, and metal categories, for instance. Then you get into all the technical categories, for producers and engineers. For me, one of the most notable Grammy awards was, believe it or not, in the category of Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The winning album was Ellipse, by the quirky-but-gifted English singer and songwriter Imogen Heap. This award goes not to the artist, but the engineer. So who was Imogen Heap’s engineer? Imogen Heap. Now that’s girl power.

Heap was one of two women nominated in all of the technical categories; and some of these nominations have sizable lists of engineers – up to 9 for one nominee, so you know there are tons of Rogers and Johns and Daniels in there. That needs to change. If women are going to be seen as strong, enduring figures in a rough, competitive industry, they can’t afford to be seen – rightly or wrongly – as creations of middle-aged guys in some record company office or in a studio’s control room. They need to be equal partners in the way artistic decisions are made; and the overall conceptual decisions of the producer and the technical decisions made by the engineer are huge parts of that equation.

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