Lizzo Pattinson’s debut album, Songs About You, came out last year to rave reviews, with many critics hailing the 19-year-old as the female Adele. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the London-born vocalist – not even close. In fact, she had to battle with the record label over creative control, got snubbed by the Grammys, and had to delete a controversial album track to stay on her label.

So what happened? Was she unfairly vilified by the music industry for being a woman? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and examine the evolution of women in music, from Adele and Taylor Swift to Ariana Grande and Lizzo Pattinson.

The Grammys, The Recording Academy, And Creative Control

If you’re not familiar, the Grammys are the Grammy Awards, an annual accolade that honors artists for outstanding contributions to music. This year, the Grammys aired on CBS and were hosted by Sandra Lee, with performances from Lady Gaga, Childish Gambino, and Ariana Grande.

While the ceremony was geared towards celebrating artists who are predominantly famous for their music, it was actually a platform to air grievances regarding the state of music today. With several performers denouncing the recording industry and calling out streaming services for destroying music as we know it, it was an opportunity to air old grievances and call out the injustices of today’s music industry.

Notably, Ariana Grande took the stage with her back to the crowd, clad in a latex catsuit and clutching a microphone while wearing a Grim Reaper costume. The “Buckets” singer was joined on stage by fellow Grammy nominee and rapper Childish Gambino, who donned a black outfit with white panels and completed the look with a yellow hard hat. They took turns lambasting the music industry for “robbing” artists of both genders of their creative freedom and for underpaying them. (It’s important to note here that neither Gambino nor Ariana were nominated for album of the year, but they were both nominated for best song for “Girls Like You” and “Break Free,” respectively.)

This year’s Grammys were heavily criticized for their lack of female representation. While there were a number of notable performances by women, the majority of performers were male. This isn’t the first time the Grammys have struggled with their lack of female presence – 2014 saw a similar phenomenon. In 2019, however, the academy decided to rectify this issue, announcing that a woman would be given the award for album of the year on an alternate basis. The Grammys went on to admit that the problem is deeply ingrained and that it will take more than a few awards ceremonies to change the imbalance.

Changing Of The Guard

In the meantime, while the Grammys were embroiled in controversy, Ariana Grande was enjoying her commercial breakthrough with her latest album, Thank You, which became her first album to debut at number one on the Billboard Top 100. The album was released in January 2019 and marked a radical departure from her previous work. While previous albums had featured eccentric and playful outfits on the part of the singer, including a cat costume that she wore in a music video, Thank You was a stark, almost minimalistic affair. The music video for the album’s title track depicts a young girl in various states of undress, dancing, and playing with toys as the camera follows a man in a penguin suit as he saunters in and out of rooms in a grandiose fashion. At one point, he opens a door and reveals himself to be a penguin in full. (The video was directed by Sophie Muller and also stars Emily Rios and Alanna Arpels.)

The shift in aesthetic was a response to industry pressure. While on the subject of album art, Muller noted that she was frequently overruled on the subject of the album’s cover, with Grande’s label, Labeled Music, insisting that it incorporate a more “street-style” sensibility:

“They would say, ‘No, we need more of a luxury, high-end type of look.’ So I would disagree,” she said. “I would love to work with a luxury label, but as long as they recognize what type of musician I am, I would love to be signed to a more affordable label as well.”

Muller was then directed to work with a streetwear brand called Mephisto, which happened to be co-owned by Kanye West and Louis Vuitton. The designer introduced Muller to the Italian luxury goods company, Burberry, and suggested that they work together to create a unique artistic design for the album’s cover. As Muller recalls, “Kanye loved when I said ‘louis’,” referring to Louis Vuitton’s signature bag.

In the end, the couple settled on a design that combines a woman in a wedding dress with a dog bed, a reference to the singer’s newlywed status. For much of 2019, the singer toured the U.S. and Canada in support of Thank You, performing in arenas and festivals alongside headlining slots at a number of large-scale music awards shows. The combination of massive crowds and lavish budgets has always been a source of anxiety for musicians, but perhaps the most significant performance of 2019 was the televised tribute to Michael Jackson, which saw Ariana Grande – then performing under the name “Arpana” – share the stage with the star’s family and friends for the first time since his death in 2009. The singer closed her set with a performance of Jackson’s “Remember the Time,” followed by a standing ovation from the audience. (The performance, which was recorded a few days before the Grammy Awards, also earned Grande a nomination for best live music performance at the upcoming 2020 Grammys.)

Nasty Gal: From Free Spirit To Fashion Icon

The year 2020 will see Nasty Gal cement its reputation as one of the most influential independent fashion retailers of all time. The brand, which was founded in 2002 and is named after founder Jessica Alba, has grown to become a global brand, with stores in North America, Europe, and Asia. (In January 2020, it was announced that Nasty Gal had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.)

Alba, who is transgender and was the first to publicly reveal that she is a transsexual, has been responsible for some of 2019’s biggest fashion moments. In April, Alba revealed in an interview with Elle that she had been hiding her true identity from the public for years, even though she had begun transitioning a decade prior. (The brand, which is named after Alba, has now become an emblematic part of the LGBTQ community, with many fans and followers donning the “Nasty Gal” moniker as a show of support. In fact, Alba’s gender confirmation surgery was even covered by Vanity Fair in an article titled, “Why is Everyone in Such a Mess About Jessica Alba’s Genitals?”)

Alongside her own fashion label, Alba has had a hand in the wardrobes of several well-known celebrities, going as far as designing the costumes for Elle closet hits such as Taylor Swift’s “Look, it’s Bumblebee!” and “Grammys.” (Alba designed the “Bumblebee” look for the songstress. On the subject of fashion and celebrity, Alba has said, “I love that people can relate to my clothes. I love when men associate me with a different role. I love that people see me as a strong woman.”)

Ariana Grande: A Career To Follow

While Ariana Grande closed out her 2019 with a bang, it was also the beginning of the end for her career. In December, the singer released her fourth studio album, Dress (sic), which she described as “more of a soundtrack than a traditional album.” (The album is made up of a combination of music she recorded while on tour and new material. There is no guest appearance from Grande on the album, which was entirely produced by her and her team. In an interview with USA Today, the singer admitted that, due to the pressure of fulfilling multiple roles as a wife, mother, and recording artist, she had lost sight of what she was actually creating. “This album represents a moment where I stepped away from the limelight and focused on being a wife and a mother,” she said. “I think that was necessary to do [pause]… for my sanity.”)