In 2023, the names of two women were on everyone’s lips: Barbie, and Taylor Swift.
Both are represented at the Grammy Awards tonight.
Swift‘s music needs no introduction of course, while Barbie makes the cut thanks to the contributions to the film’s soundtrack by Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa (Ryan Gosling’s I’m Just Ken sadly didn’t make it a hat-trick, despite the Oscar nod).
After cementing herself firmly as the biggest pop star on the planet with the start of her Eras tour last year, this year’s Grammys ceremony could be a record-breaker for Swift.
If the star takes home the award for best album for Midnights she will become the first artist to win the prize for a fourth time, having previously won for Fearless (2010), 1989 (2016) and Folklore (2021).
Those three awards currently tie her with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, so a win this year would make Grammys history.
However, despite being the most-nominated songwriter ever, shortlisted for song of the year seven times over the years, Swift has never won in that category before.
Surprising, you might think, for a woman hailed as arguably the most influential songwriter of her generation. But then again, despite a record 32 Grammy wins – the most decorated artist ever – Beyonce has never won album of the year.
Could Anti-Hero win Swift the prize for the first time?
The lead single from Midnights was released in October 2022 and spent six weeks at the top of the charts in the UK, remaining in the top 100 songs for a year. In the US, it topped the Billboard chart on eight weeks, leading a top 10 entirely made up of Swift songs – making her the first artist to achieve the feat – when it initially charted.
At the Grammys, Anti-Hero faces competition in the category from the likes of Eilish’s What Was I Made For? and British star Lipa’s Dance The Night, their songs from the Barbie soundtrack, as well as Flowers by Miley Cyrus. Vampire, by Olivia Rodrigo, Kill Bill by SZA, Butterfly by Jon Batiste, and A&W by Lana Del Rey.
Swift is up for six awards in total, also including best pop vocal album, best pop solo performance, best duo or group performance for Karma featuring Ice Spice, and record of the year for Anti-Hero once again.
(If you’re wondering what the difference is: record of the year deals with a specific recording of a song and recognises the artists, producers and engineers who contribute, while song of the year celebrates the composition and recognises the songwriters.)
But Swift is not the top nominee
The honour of most-nominated artists goes to alternative pop and RnB singer SZA, who is up for nine awards.
As well as the big prizes already mentioned, these include (deep breath): best melodic rap performance; best traditional RnB performance; best progressive RnB album; best RnB performance; best RnB song; and best pop duo/ group performance.
The star, whose real name is Solana Rowe, garnered critical acclaim for her second album SOS, released at the end of 2022, and will likely win in a few of the genre categories at least.
However, with competition from the likes of pop force phenomenon Swift and Grammys favourite Eilish in the main groups, a clean sweep of nine could be unlikely.
Following closely behind SZA is Victoria Monet, with seven nods, and Eilish, Rodrigo and Cyrus all have six alongside Swift.
Alongside SZA, Burna Boy, Billie Eilish, Billy Joel, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo and Travis Scott are set to take to the stage.
Plus, Joni Mitchell will make her Grammys performing debut and U2 will deliver the first-ever broadcast performance from the multibillion-dollar Sphere venue in Las Vegas, where they began a residency in September.
Who won’t be performing? Swift, apparently. While she will attend, the fact the next leg of her Eras tour kicks off in Japan on Wednesday means she’s saving her energy, according to reports.
And don’t expect to see NFL star boyfriend Travis Kelce there either – he’s busy preparing for something called the Super Bowl, apparently, but will no doubt be tuning in to “watch her win every single award that she’s nominated for”, as he said in a recent podcast interview.
The ceremony will be hosted by Trevor Noah, and stars presenting awards include Christina Aguilera, Samara Joy, Lenny Kravitz, Maluma, Lionel Richie, Mark Ronson, Meryl Streep, Taylor Tomlinson and Oprah Winfrey.
The striking thing about the big categories…
You might have realised that with the exception of Batiste, all the artists nominated for song of the year are women. The category recognises songwriters so all collaborators, male and female, are also in the running – Eilish’s brother Finneas O’Connell, for example, and Mark Ronson as a co-writer of Dance The Night, while Jack Antonoff is nominated twice.as a co-writer for both Anti-Hero and A&W.
But the artists fronting the songs are predominantly female. The same is true in the record of the year group, which sees female indie trio boygenius and Victoria Monet up against Swift, Cyrus, Rodrigo, Eilish and SZA. And Batiste once again representing the men.
For album of the year, the nominees are: Guts by Rodrigo; the record by boygenius; Midnights by Swift; SOS by SZA, The Age Of Pleasure by Janelle Monae; Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, by Lana Del Rey and Endless Summer Vacation by Cyrus. And – you’ve guessed it – World Music Radio by Batiste.
So unless there’s a major upset, the ceremony looks set to be a celebration of a year in which female artists have dominated the charts and our playlists – reflected to a lesser extent in the Brits nominations here in the UK, where more than half the nominees are women.
Best new artist
This award is one of the big ones, previously won by Eilish, Rodrigo, Sam Smith, Adele, John Legend, Amy Winehouse and plenty of other performers who went on to become huge stars.
In the running this year are:
• Jelly Roll
• The War And Treaty
• Victoria Monet
• Noah Kahan
• Coco Jones
• Ice Spice
• Fred Again
• Gracie Abrams
Noah Kahan’s Stick Season has been a huge hit, and rapper Ice Spice is also a favourite.
Grammys fact: should The War And Treaty win, they would become the first husband and wife duo to take home the prize.
And another one: if US rapper Jelly Roll, who is 39, takes the prize, he’ll be the oldest solo artist to do so – taking the title from Sheryl Crow, who was 33 when she won in 1995.
What other records could be broken?
Well, one that definitely won’t is Beyonce’s. With 12 wins under her belt heading into the ceremony, even if Swift wins all six she’s up for her tally will stand at 18 – still a fair way to go to match Queen Bey’s 32. And SZA has won one before, so a clean sweep for her would take her to 10.
If Eilish wins record of the year for What Was I Made For? she will become the only female artist to have won the prize three times – having won previously for Bad Guy and Everything I Wanted – and only the third artist in total, matching Paul Simon and Bruno Mars.
Then there’s eight-time winner Antonoff, who this year is up for five prizes in total – including record of the year as a producer on Anti-Hero (as almost all paths lead back to Swift, it seems). Should he win that one, he becomes part of the elite Grammys club for those who have won all of what are considered the four major awards – record, song, album and best new artist. Current members are Adele, Eilish and Christopher Cross, so it’s pretty exclusive.
The Grammys ceremony takes place at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, with the red carpet starting at about 11pm UK time and the ceremony at 1am on Monday