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She Rocks rocked. A suggestion.

My wife and I settled in Friday night for the virtual She Rocks Awards 2021.  I go to the live event every year at NAMM, the world’s largest music convention, held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California.  This year’s  She Rocks Awards was brought to us virtually by Positive Grid as part of NAMM’s ‘Believe In Music’ week.  Like it does every year, the event paid tribute to women in all fields of the music industry who display leadership and stand out as role models.

My favorite She Rocks Awards are the ceremonies and concerts held at the Anaheim House of Blues, but even when the Awards were in one of the NAMM hotel ballrooms it was just as much fun.  The room practically crackled with energy as the movers and shakers of the music industry – almost all women, fill the tables and aisles and of course, the stage.

Meetups and new friends are part of the energy.  Last year I was able to introduce my dear friend heavy metal queen and frontwoman for the Judith Priestess Band, Militia Vox, to my friend, Nurit Smith, Executive Director of the Music Forward House of Blues Foundation, and then stepped back and watched the electricity. Needless to say, dozens of similar spark-generating conversations were going on all over the building.

Even without the electricity of personal contact, Friday’s virtual She Rocks Awards rocked, beginning with the Red Carpet moved along nicely by Senior National Artist of MAC Cosmetics John Stapleton, (which was not focused on costumes and gowns, but on nominees and winners), to the Pre-show MC’d by Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Entertainment/Sirius XM, to the awards hosted by Lzzy Hale of Halestorm who, in addition to being a spot-on host, modeled her distinctive collection of leather jackets.

Producing a virtual show with dozens of artists in as many places is not easy and I have seen numerous attempts beset with glitches, drop-outs, and broken links.  The She Rocks Awards show, produced by Bonnie Gallanter and Laura B. Whitmore for the Woman’s International Music Network (WIMN), went off without any visible glitches, moving smoothly from award to MC to performance to bio and back.  And, they did it on YouTube and two other streaming platforms simultaneously while they conducted an online auction at the same time. Hats off and gold stars!

The highlight of the program for me was the awards to and performances by drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, the Go-Go’s, and Heart’s Nancy Wilson.  I also loved the special appearances by Gloria Gaynor, Colbie Caillat, Alicia Keys, Lisa Loeb, and Suzi Quatro and the awards to music industry leaders like Margaret Cho, recording engineer Ann Mincieli and On-Stage, Inc. President Sharon Hennessey. It all worked.

The year’s performances by Magnolia Boulevard, Lizzy Hall, and the Command Sisters, among others, were a treat, even if they lacked the presence of “live.”  It was nice to see them up close on video rather than as tiny people on a big stage from my balcony seat.

One thing we did notice, however, was that the program was very white – very few Black or Latina nominees or performers.  There were some to be sure – like Cindy Blackman Santana and Divinity Roxx, and in past years artists like Gloria Gaynor, Macy Grey, and Ebonie Smith.  But it seemed a bit odd that in a year when all records for downloads and streams were blown into oblivion by two women with a feminist anthem, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,”  She Rocks did not give them a nod or include any rap or R&B artists.

I understand that the Award is She Rocks and the rock world has been and still is largely white (although 2 of its early progenitors, Chuck Berry and Little Richard were Black), so it is not surprising that most of the women who have fought to the top have been white. But Nielsen Music reports that the #1 genre in the US in sales, streams, and influence is hip hop/rap and is arguably the genre of the future of music. But hip hop/rap is a very male-dominated genre, like rock used to be, and for Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B to break in at the top is a major accomplishment for both its artistic merit and its political meaning.

The same is true for Latinx and Latino music, now the fifth most popular genre in the US, surpassing EDM and country this year.  I review between 60 and 100 songs, albums, and videos every week for my Hot Half Dozen review column and my radio show Music Sin Fronteras and find that consistently the most creative music is by and from women and much of it is Latinx or Latino /rap fusion.  Songs like the pop/rap/bilingual anthem La Gran Civilización by Nancy Sanchez or the salsa rap Toxic People by Alex Nester push the boundaries of creativity and music joy like nothing I have heard from the male rock bands who submit songs to me. But Latinx and Latino music are also male-dominated and the women breaking those vinyl ceilings need recognition and kudos for the battles they are fighting and winning.

So, my comment about this 2021 She Rocks Awards is great job!!!  And I hope we can see it live next year.  My suggestion is next year, mix it up, rap it out a little, and by all means, get your Musica Latina on.

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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