10 Artists Who Have Stood Up For Women In Music: Taylor Swift, Lizzo & More

Photo: Kevin Mazur / Contributor via Getty Images


10 Artists Who Have Stood Up For Women In Music: Taylor Swift, Lizzo & More

Through voice, advocacy and creative endeavors, the music industry has become a safer, happier place for women to thrive — but there is still much work to be done. Read how artists such as Lizzo, Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys have stood up for women.

GRAMMYs/Mar 14, 2022 - 07:21 pm

It would be painful to even imagine the music industry without the contributions of women, many of whom have long been subjected to systemic sexism, double-standards, subtle dismissing, and blatant injustices throughout their careers in music. This inequality has been brought to the spotlight in recent years, as movements such as Me Too and Times Up empowered women to tell their stories and make profound changes to protect others.

The following artists stood up for themselves and, in doing so, have set an example and blazed the trail for others to do the same. In taking a stance against misogyny and inequity, both female and male artists are working to shape the music industry into a more inclusive, safe place for all artists to create and thrive.

Taylor Swift fought sexism on multiple fronts

Taylor Swift has enjoyed successes that few in the music industry can touch. She was the first woman to win the GRAMMY for Album of the Year three times, and has been nominated in the category once again for evermore at the 64th GRAMMY Awards. Nevertheless, she has often been the target of sexism in her extraordinary career.

While Swift started in the music industry as a teenager, she noticed the sexism as she grew older and more successful. She was mercilessly critiqued for writing about her feelings and relationships, while male musicians who do the same thing were rarely challenged. In her early 20s, Swift said she was "slut shamed" for having a few relationships; others romantically linked  Swift to people whom she’d only sat next to at a party. What most upset her was realizing that they were reducing her songwriting to being a trick, rather than a skill and a craft.

Swift has fought back through words, actions and art, and received praise for her efforts from feminist icon Dolly Parton. She has also written open letters for other artists who are experiencing injustice — including publicly demanding that Apple Music pay the artists during the trial period of the platform. Apple Music ultimately did as she asked. Swift has also stood up for individual women in music, and they have done the same ultimately strengthening their collective power.

Taylor Swift’s voice is strong within her music, too. "The Man", a song on her album Lover, looks at how much differently the music industry and society would have treated her if she was a man. In Miss Americana, the acclaimed 2020 documentary on Taylor Swift, she discusses the double-standards for women in music, pointing out how female artists must reinvent and reimagine their image.

Lizzo combated erasure by being unabashedly herself

Lizzo has tirelessly stood up for Black women in music. In an interview with "Good Morning America" in August 2021, she explained that, although Black women have long been innovators in the music industry, they suffer from marginalization and erasure the most. Lizzo added that she might have been erased if not for social media and the internet.

Lizzo is also quick to defend other musical artists and stand up for what’s right. She corrected the paparazzi for using the wrong pronouns when referencing Demi Lovato. In turn, Demi responded by calling Lizzo a queen and sincerely thanking her.

Blazing a trail for herself and other artists can’t be easy, but Lizzo is determined to set an example of confidence, authenticity and beauty. In addition to facing racism and sexism, Lizzo has also faced criticism for her body type, yet she responds to all that with confidence and self-love. She told People, "What I'm doing is stepping into my confidence and my power to create my own beauty standard. And one day that will just be the standard."

Brandi Carlile created space for women in country music

Speaking up for women in music is an important part of life for Brandi Carlile. As she told Billboard, "I wake up every day political. I can’t not be political."

Along with fellow artists Amanda Shires and Maren Morris, Carlile started the Highwomen to mentor and support fellow female musicians, according to Rolling Stone. She also co-founded the Looking Out Foundation, which funds lesser-known causes and organizations to amplify the impact of music by empowering those without a voice."

Carlile has also taken to social media for activism. When Country Music Television announced that it would promote equal play, offering "complete parity between male and female artists" on its channels, she tweeted a challenge for country radio to do the same.

Madonna broke the mold and challenged expectations of older women

It’s often said that Madonna was ahead of her time, but she changed the times to fit her message and voice (the New York Times tallied 60 times Madonna changed culture). When her career first skyrocketed in the 1980s, Madonna redefined what it meant to be a powerful woman in music in many ways, and has since continued to challenge sexism in the music industry and beyond.

Madonna has repeatedly called out the rampant ageism against women in music, which has impacted how she has been perceived and treated. However, the woman who broke barriers and created boundary-pushing music believes the most controversial thing she has done is stick around when the music industry would otherwise consider her too old.

Madonna hopes to help empower other women to embrace and celebrate their bodies, talents and selves at all ages and stages of their lives. That’s part of why she doesn’t hesitate to call out anyone who mocks her or others for not adhering to the music industry's expectations of women as they age.

Alicia Keys' nonprofit encourages women in music

Alicia Keys has long been a musical force to be reckoned with and she co-founded the organization She Is The Music to help empower other women in music. The nonprofit has thrived since 2018, and it operates as a "unifying organization for women from across the industry, creating strength and impact on a global scale. On a practical level, it helps increase the number of women working in the music industry and also strives to help future generations of women develop their careers.

Keys has written and performed many empowering songs, including "Girl on Fire." She referenced that song when announcing the launch of She Is The Music, stating, "We are more on fire than we’ve ever been."

Janet Jackson stood in her power and inspired others

With her GRAMMY-nominated album Control and hit song of the same name, Janet Jackson inspired millions of women beginning in the late '80s. "Control" celebrates the joy and fulfillment of a woman standing in her power, while taking control of her own life. Jackson advocated for women in other songs, too, such as the 1993 hit "New Agenda" which frankly dealt with sexism and racism.

Jackson has paved the way for many other female artists to reach greater heights in the music industry, often using her spotlight to inspire and empower others. When she won the Global Icon Award at the MTV European Music Awards, Jackson explained that she feels moved to speak for women whose voices have been stifled, and she confessed that her voice used to be stifled as well. 

When she won the Worldwide Inspiration Award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in 2018, shememorably said, "I dream of the end of bigotry and discrimination in any form. I dream of a world in which we join hands across all borders and unite as one. Finally, I dream of a planet where hatred turns to compassion, tolerance turns to understanding, and a healing and lasting peace prevails."

Pink embodied feminism in her art and called for change

Pink started her career with a distinct voice and feminist attitude, and she has held fast to it throughout her growth as an artist. If anything, her feminist convictions and expressions have gotten stronger.

Pink has stood up for many other important causes, including animal rights, and she didn’t even back down to royalty. When Prince William invited her to perform for his 21st birthday, she rejected the gesture because he was a hunter. She even publicly called him out for killing animals for fun. 

Pink has stood up for women in music on many occasions. In one of her early hits, she bemoaned that people in the music industry tried to pressure her to look as pretty as Britney Spears. More recently, Pink has said that she feels bad that she didn’t reach out more to Spears back then. Standing in solidarity with other women, she has also served as a UNICEF ambassador and often speaks up for what she feels is right.

Harry Styles strives for a world where feminism is the norm

Harry Styles is a feminist who chalks it up to simply being the right thing to do (and doesn’t want a lot of credit for it). Styles also grew up heavily influenced by his mom and his sister. Since the female influence in his life was so profound, Styles felt it was only natural to be a feminist; he considers the ideals of feminism to be pretty straightforward.

"Most of the stuff that hurts me about what's going on at the moment is not politics, it's fundamentals. Equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything," Styles told Rolling Stone. He tries to make things better in big and small ways — from the music he chooses to perform, to the words he uses on social media and in interviews. He has used social media to support things like the #HeForShe campaign, an initiative from UN Women to empower women.

Ariana Grande called out sexism and defied stereotypes

Ariana Grande chose to stand up for women in music and call out the massive sexism in the industry when she was named as Billboard’s Woman of the Year. She noted how female artists try so much harder, and spoke about how women are expected to fit into narrow stereotypes.

That wasn’t the first time Grande stood up for herself and other female performers. She's also encouraged others to do the same. 

"I think the most important thing is to have each other’s backs. When you see something or hear something that’s upsetting, or someone says something that’s upsetting, even if it’s not to you, just say something and be there and support each other," Grande told Coveteur. "Misogyny is ever-present, and we have to be there to support one another. That’s really it. It’s about the sisterhood. There’s no competing in that. We have to lift each other up, not try and claw each other down."

Lady Gaga opposed ageism — in her twenties

The intersection of sexism and ageism is no joke, and women in music feel it early on. In fact, Lady Gaga was speaking out about it in her twenties. She declared, "I want to show women they don’t need to try to keep up with the 19-year-olds and the 21-year-olds in order to have a hit. Women in music, they feel like they need to f-cking sell everything to be a star. It’s so sad. I want to explode as I go into my thirties."

Happily, Lady Gaga did just that, and her success has only grown. Meanwhile, she has continued to lift other artists up. She praised Britney Spears for forever changing the course for women in music; in turn, Spears called Lady Gaga her "inspiration."

Underrepresented, Overworked & Underpaid: 7 Key Learnings From The Newly Published Women In The Mix Study

FYI/TMI: Are Taylor Swift And Ed Sheeran Getting Together?
Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images


FYI/TMI: Are Taylor Swift And Ed Sheeran Getting Together?

Rumors surface that the two are in a red-hot relationship; Sony/ATV Music Publishing named top publisher of fourth quarter in 2012

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(In an effort to keep you fully informed, and fully entertained, below we present today's FYI and TMI — news you need and news that's, well, sometimes needless….)


Sony/ATV Claims Top Publisher In Q4 2012
Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which in June 2012 acquired administration of EMI Music Publishing, was the top publisher in the fourth quarter of 2012 based on its 25.8 percent share of the top 100 songs during the period, according to figures released by Nielsen BDS. No. 2 was Kobalt Music Group (16.5 percent share), followed by Universal Music Publishing Group (15.9 percent share), Warner/Chappell Music (14.2 percent share), and BMG Chrysalis (5.3 percent share).


Swift Getting Together With Sheeran?
Taylor Swift may never be getting back together with a few people — like, ever — but that isn't stopping her from joining "The A Team." According to a report, Swift and GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran were reportedly seen together at a hotel in late February. Adding more red-hot fuel to the fire, Sheeran collaborated with Swift on her latest album, Red, the name of which is also a tattoo on Sheeran's left arm. Since Swift and Sheeran supposedly dated briefly last spring, maybe they are, like, getting back together.

Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series

Alicia Keys

Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images


Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series

The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour

GRAMMYs/Mar 5, 2020 - 04:07 am

After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.

Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression."  You can pre-order the title here.

The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.

Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.

This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.

Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images


Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17. 

John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

John Lennon

Photo: Ron Howard/Redferns


John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

With hits from Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Nina Simone, and more, find the motivation for a brand-new you this New Year

GRAMMYs/Jan 4, 2018 - 11:12 pm

Each New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh new start, whether you're looking to wash away the sins of the previous year or reinvent a better future that follows your ultimate dreams. Starting over isn't an easy task, but we have one recommendation that will help motivate you: music.

Don't be a fuddy duddy. Kick-start 2018 with this playlist of seven songs all about starting over, including hits from John Lennon, the Byrds, Sting, and Alicia Keys, among others.

1. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

Starting with its lyrics, "To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season," this GRAMMY Hall Of Fame classic is a great reminder that everything is always changing anyway, so now is as good a time as any to give something new a chance. The composition was written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, but the lyrics come almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The song didn't hit it big until the Byrds got their turn at it in 1965. Reportedly, it took Roger McGuinn & Co. 78 takes to perfect their folk-rock arrangement.

2. Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

GRAMMY winner Leonard Cohen had a knack for poetry powerful enough to move mountains, and his "Anthem" is one such gem. This 1992 tune about embracing imperfection and marching forward in the face of adversity contains one of Cohen's most-quoted lines: "Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." And we'll leave you with one final line from the master that encapsulates starting over: "The birds they sing, at the break of day/Start again, I heard them say/Don't dwell on what has passed away/Or what is yet to be."

3. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

Taken from his 2010 album of the same name, "I'm New Here" came near the end of Gil Scott-Heron's storied life. The album saw Scott-Heron, according to Drowned In Sound's Robert Ferguson, "pick over the bones of his life, acknowledging the hard times and his own mistakes, but standing proud of all they have led him to become." Embodying this sentiment accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Scott-Heron's bluesy, semi-spoken "I'm New Here" brings out the poignancy of change. Its key lyric, "No matter how far wrong you've gone/You can always turn around," is something to keep in mind year-round, let alone January.

4. Alicia Keys, "Brand New Me"

Alicia Keys went full bore on the empowering messages of her 2012 album, Girl On Fire —  the Best R&B Album winner at the 56th GRAMMY Awards — including the track, "Brand New Me." Co-written with singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé, the soft pop/R&B ballad describes growing as a person and becoming a brand-new version of yourself. "Brand new me is about the journey it takes to get to a place where you are proud to be a new you," Keys wrote on her website at the time of the song's release.

5. John Lennon, "(Just Like) Starting Over"

A quintessential start-anew song, former Beatle John Lennon included "(Just Like) Starting Over" on his GRAMMY-winning 1980 album, Double Fantasy. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was the album's first single because Lennon felt it best represented his return following a five-year hiatus from music. It's also a love song, but the theme of starting over has a universal resonance "It's time to spread our wings and fly/Don't let another day go by my love/It'll be just like starting over." It became Lennon's second chart-topping single in the U.S., reaching No. 1 after his death on Dec. 8, 1980.

6. Nina Simone, "Feeling Good"

"It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me/I'm feelin' good." Could you ask for better lyrics for embarking on a new journey? Nina Simone recorded her version of "Feeling Good," which was originally written for the musical "The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd," on her 1965 album I Put A Spell On You. While artists such as Michael Bublé, John Coltrane, George Michael, and Muse subsequently covered it, no alternative is quite as powerful — or soulful — as Simone's.

7. Sting, "Brand New Day"

Sting's "Brand New Day" has a lesson for inspiring motivation to start the New Year with fresh eyes: "Turn the clock to zero, buddy/Don't wanna be no fuddy-duddy/We started up a brand new day." The bright, catchy pop tune and its namesake 1999 album resonated with fans, landing it at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The track (and album) earned Sting GRAMMYs — Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album — at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards.

What's Your New Year's Music Resolution?