The nominees for the 2018 Billboard Awards were announced on Tuesday and one thing became strikingly clear upon the reveal of this year’s nominees—women took the year off from music.
Of course, that’s not true, but if you were to look at the 2018 Billboard nominations, that appears to be the case. Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeran lead this year’s nominees, with all three men earning 15 nominations for their huge 2017 radio plays. Post Malone is next on the leaderboard with 12 nominations, while four-piece rock band Imagine Dragons earned 10, followed by Drake, with nine nominations under his belt. It’s not until we get six artists deep that our first female arrives, with Cardi B earning eight nominations thanks to her breakout year. She’s tied with Justin Bieber, who didn’t release any solo singles in 2017, but smartly teamed up with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee for their monster hit “Despacito.”
Taylor Swift, one of biggest artists in the world at any given point over the past decade, earned five nominations, while her tour opener Camila Cabello, who had one of the biggest songs of 2017 with “Havana,” has earned three nominations.
And that’s pretty much it. Cardi B, Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello are the only women represented in the major categories, with no women present in Top Duo/Group, Top 100 Artists, Top Song Sales Artists, Top Touring Artists, Top Rap Artist, Top Country Artist, Top Rock Artist and Top Dance/Electronic Artist. Even when there are women nominated in the biggest categories, like Top Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist and Top Radio Songs Artist, there’s only one name among the five nominees. Top New Artist and Billboard Chart Achievement are the only two major categories with more than one woman nominated, with Camila Cabello and Cardi B both recognized.
The Billboard Awards are unlike other award shows where nominees are chosen by a committee. Instead, Billboard uses charts, streams and fan encounters to make their list. Specifically, nominees are chosen by a “…number of factors, including key interactions with music fans, album and digital song sales, radio airplay, streaming, touring and social engagement, as tracked by Billboard and its data partners over a 12-month period.”
So, this year’s nominees, who are mostly men, earned their nominations by releasing huge albums and singles. That’s fair. The women, like Swift, Cabello and Cardi B, all did the same. But there’s still a huge gender imbalance and what this really shows isn’t that men are making better music, it’s that there is still a huge discrepancy in opportunity and promotion between the sexes.
There was no shortage of impressive albums released by women in 2017, including Kesha, Lorde, SZA, St. Vincent, Alvvays, Lana Del Rey, Kehlani, and more. But, if you search ‘Albums 2017,’ most of the results are men.
Are men naturally more musically inclined? To put it scientifically, no. What Billboard’s 2018 nominations do show is that there continues to be an imbalance in opportunity for female musicians, and in many cases a lack of promotion by labels. It’s great to see Swift, Cardi B, and Cabello nominated for Billboard Awards. We loved that Beyoncé took over Coachella this past weekend. But the movement and effort to continuing promoting female musicians is far from over.