All the Grammy ladies

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

American women were the overwhelming winners at the music industry's big shindig this week. But, says Elisa Bray, why were their British counterparts ignored?

It is the most prestigious awards ceremony in the music industry, and last year, British acts were at the centre of it all. The 51st Grammy Awards were awash with British acts, and Robert Plant, Coldplay, Adele, Estelle, Radiohead and Duffy all took home prizes. Why, then, was British talent almost completely invisible at this year's glitzy LA bash?

With the exceptions of the legendary guitarist Jeff Beck, who won an award for best rock instrumental performance, and the heavy metal act Judas Priest, who picked up an award for the best metal performance, Brits were absent. Last year it was all so different. Robert Plant was the overriding winner, taking home four Grammys, the night's winner of the largest number of awards for his collaboration with Alison Krauss – including the most prestigious of the accolades, Album of the Year for Raising Sand. The event's other big winners were Coldplay, who received seven nominations, and picked up three awards. Meanwhile, among the girls, Adele won both Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal for the single "Chasing Pavements", Duffy also won one, as did London-born rapper Estelle for her catchy single "American Boy".

This year, by contrast, it was all about home-grown talent and it was all about the women. Or rather, it was all about Beyoncé. The R&B star broke records with her six wins – the most won in one night by a female performer in the event's 52-year history, surpassing the achievements of Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones. She now boasts 16 Grammys, including those garnered from her years in the pop group Destiny's Child. The other success of the night was 20-year-old Taylor Swift, with four wins for her country pop, including the highest accolade of Best Album of the Year for her platinum-selling Fearless. The now-ubiquitous Lady Gaga was, of course, the big winner in the dance category.

Male performers didn't really get a look in. Beyoncé conceded one prize to her husband, Jay-Z, while Kings of Leon scored three, including one major award, for Record of the Year. But in a year when female talent swept up the awards, it was noticeable that British solo singers were overlooked.

Look to the previous year's most promising British act, Adele, who won the Brits Critics Choice in 2008, topped the BBC's Sound of 2008 poll, and went on to win two Grammys last year. You might think there would be a repeat of the pattern with Florence and the Machine, who won Brits Critics Choice last year, and came third in the BBC's Sound of 2009 poll. Florence and the Machine may now be up for three Brit Awards, and look set to follow in Adele's footsteps, but Florence's UK chart-topping album Lungs did not receive a single Grammy nod. But unlike Adele, Florence Welch has not yet conquered America.

Adele's success in America came quickly – her debut album, 19,was released there in June 2008, but it was in October, when she appeared on Saturday Night Live on the same night as Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, that she achieved her big breakthrough. Her successor Florence and the Machine first went on tour in America late last year, and did not have such a fortuitous early television appearance. But it is when Florence undertakes her first major tour of North America this April that she will no doubt win support across the Atlantic. This year is Florence Welch's chance to make her mark in America, and to lay the foundations for future Grammy recognition. Shame that the Grammys have overlooked someone who is set to be a star there so soon.

Perhaps more unfairly omitted from any Grammy acknowledgement is another, better- established pop star, Lily Allen, whose sophomore album It's Not Me, It's You was released in February 2009. It was her LA-based producer Greg Kurstin, instead, who scored a nomination for the album. Allen was nominated for her 2007 debut Alright, Still, but it was her impressive follow-up album, depicting her contemporary female-perspective world of equality in relationships and sex, which is most deserving of an accolade – and rightly scored her three nominations in this year's Brits. Full of assured and memorable pop tunes, its lyrics were packed with wit, as in the tale of the lingering, obsessive ex-lover who just won't take the hint and gets labelled a "fool" in "Never Gonna Happen" and "It's Not Fair", whose subject is crap in bed ("You're supposed to care/ But you never make me scream"), and to whom she directs the album's most humiliating and biting line: "I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you/ And then you make this noise and it's apparent it's all over." But, like Florence Welch, Allen just cannot compare to the commercial success of the female stars in America.

It's not just about the women. Even among the boys, British acts were overlooked. Paolo Nutini's chart-topping album Sunny Side Up would have made a good contender. Embracing ska-pop, soul and Dixieland jazz, it was one of the UK's best selling albums of 2009, and the first No 1 of the decade. Nutini has certainly made his impact here, but the young Glaswegian has yet to be recognised by the Grammys. As Paul Rees, editor of Q magazine, says: "Given the commercial success of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift in the US, the Grammy nominations were hardly a surprise. I do think that Lily Allen made a terrific pop record, though – one of wit, flair and no little panache – and of all the female artists you could suggest were overlooked, she would have the strongest case."

Still, if it's all about commercial appeal in America, then although she was snubbed by the Brits, Scottish Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle's chance may still be to come at the Grammys. She took America by storm this year, although her album, I Dreamed a Dream, was released too late to be eligible for a Grammy award this time. Comedian Stephen Colbert told the starry crowd at Sunday night's Grammy ceremony: "You may be the coolest people in the world, but this year your industry was saved by a 48-year-old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes".

I would put money on Susan Boyle featuring in the 53rd Grammys, as well as the other women who will make an impact on America over the course of this year. Solo female stars have been rolling out the commercial hits in the UK over the past year and are continuing to do so, as evidenced by females leading the Brit nominations (Pixie Lott, Florence and the Machine, Lily Allen and Lady Gaga all have three nods each). Should Florence and the Machine release anything this year it's pretty safe to predict that next year's Grammys will consider her.

Add to that Ellie Goulding, Little Boots and La Roux, and it shouldn't be long before British women step back on to the red carpet of the music industry's most prestigious awards.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'