LGBTQ Women Dominate Yet Again
In 2019 and 2020, queer women found themselves receiving attention that the Recording Academy had not given them in years past. In 2021, that trend will be continuing — the vast majority of LGBTQ nominees are women, includuding artists like Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Chika, and Phoebe Bridgers each getting nods from the Academy.
That trend fits within the larger context of this year’s awards — women are leading the pack. Beyoncé nabbed the most nominations of any artist (nine total), with both Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa following close behind her with six each. Even the best rock performance category, which in the past has been largely awarded to men, is made up entirely of female artists — including queer women like Howard and Bridgers.
A Good Year for Brittany Howard
After earning two nods last year for her single “History Repeats,” Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard came back to storm the 2021 genre categories with five nominations overall. The selections skip around between genres — her critically-lauded album Jaime received a best alternative album nomination, her single “Stay High” fit squarely within the best rock song and performance categories, and a few deep cuts off of her project earned nominations in R&B and roots categories.
Howard may not have broken into the Big Four categories, as many hoped she might, but there’s no denying that she made a massive splash with a career-best showing in the nomination process.
Best New Artist Gets Queer
The coveted prizes of album, song and record of the year have many scratching their heads this year -- why wasn’t The Weeknd nominated? Why was Coldplay? -- but the last category of the Big Four came with more than a few surprises for queer artists. Of the eight best new artist nominees, three -- Chika, Kaytranada and Phoebe Bridgers -- identify as LGBTQ.
Those choices may seem a bit strange to some; Kaytranada has been releasing music for most of the last decade and had previously collaborated with A-list stars like Mary J. Blige, Dua Lipa, Ty Dolla $ign and many more. Phoebe Bridgers, similarly, has been on the scene since 2015. Chika, meanwhile, is the newest of the bunch, with her Industry Games EP serving as her first official project.
Halsey, Rina Sawayama & More Shut Out
Naturally, this Grammy season's set of snubs certainly applied to LGBTQ artists as well. Despite scoring multiple top 40 hits this year and achieving a No. 2 Billboard 200 debut with her acclaimed Manic album, Halsey failed to nab a single nomination at this year’s awards. Rina Sawayama’s debut album Sawayama is beloved by critics, with a score of 89 on Metacritic (fitting easily within the site’s top 10 albums of 2020), but the rising pop phenom was shut out of all categories. Perfume Genuis’s stunning Set My Heart On Fire Immediately earned an even higher 91 on Metacritic, yet still wasn’t nominated in a single category. Queer artists may have found new footholds within the Recording Academy, but they unfortunately still have a long way yet to climb.
Arca Earns a First -- And Makes Grammy History
Meanwhile, producer and DJ Arca quietly made history in the realm of dance -- with her first-ever Grammy nomination for best electronic/dance album, the Venezuelan artist became the first openly non-binary person to ever be nominated in the category. Past nominees have openly identified as LGBTQ, including Goldfrapp, LCD Soundsystem (home to producer Rayna Russom), Pet Shop Boys and others, but Arca’s nomination stands alone as a victory for non-binary people everywhere.