By Lee Kennon
The politically and emotionally charged 75th Golden Globes were a tough act to follow for this year’s Grammys. The 60th Annual Grammy Award Show took place in New York City on January 28th, 2018.
There are many mixed feelings towards whether or not the Grammys remain important awards that have any true effect on musicians’ careers. Some people, like NBC writer Jeff Slate, argue that “with music available to us at the touch of a button in nearly every moment of our day — certainly more than even when AM and FM radio dominated the culture — the Grammys remain a windfall to performers and winners alike, whether they’re well-known or simply chipping away at the fringes of the music business.” Others, such as Cleveland.com writer Chuck Yarborough, have said that “the idea that a Grammy means forever notoriety – or even a career lasting more than a year – is more dead than Yoda, at least for most genres,” explaining that “artists no longer need or even use records to share their music or determine its popularity. It’s almost an extra expense, even.” Despite the ongoing debate surrounding the Grammys and their importance to the music industry at large, there were several aspects of the show itself that should be recognized.
While the Grammys did not as explicitly reference social and political change as the Globes did just a few weeks ago, politically charged moments still took place. There were several moments in which artists used the event as a platform to shed light on important issues through their performances and speeches.
Kendrick Lamar kicked off the night with a powerful performance of “XXX,” “DNA,”and “American Soul,” his collaboration with U2. He was also accompanied by U2’s The Edge and comedian Dave Chappelle. His performance awakened the audience in Madison Square Garden with a powerful political message. He opened with an American flag as his backdrop and an ensemble of dancers dressed in military attire. As the performance continued, the dancers revealed red hoodies and dropped to the ground at the sound of gunshots. Lamar continued to take a political stand throughout the night, such as when he endorsed Jay-Z for president during his acceptance speech after winning the award for Best Rap Album.
Continuing with the theme of politics, artist Camila Cabello used her platform on the stage, as she introduced U2, to share her remarks on the importance of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Cabello, a Cuban-Mexican immigrant, explained the importance of the DACA program, saying “I’m here on this stage tonight because just like the Dreamers my parents brought me to this country with nothing in their pockets but hope,” showing that “her journey” is similar to that of a Dreamer.
Perhaps the most obvious political punch of the night was the pre-recorded parody segment of celebrities reading from the controversial newly-published book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Among those celebrities reading was none other than Hillary Clinton. Shortly after the segment, President Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., and other members of the White House, such as Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, took to twitter to express their frustrations.
The #MeToo movement and “Times Up” campaign also made their way to the Grammy stage, such as when artist and actress Janelle Monae introduced Ke$ha. Monae spoke to the importance of women and women standing up for themselves in the music industry. Her words captured the audience’s attention, as she powerfully said, “Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist but a young woman with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry… and to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s up. We say time’s up for pay inequality, time’s up for discrimination, time’s up for harassment of any kind, and time’s up for the abuse of power.”
Similarly, rapper Logic followed his inspirational performance of his suicide prevention anthem titled “1-800-273-8255″ featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara with a moving speech. He addressed an array of social issues and the importance of using a platform like the Grammys to promote them, saying “Black is beautiful. Hate is ugly. Women are as precious as they are stronger than any man I have ever met… Be not scared to use your voice, especially in instances like these when you have the opportunity.” Trump took another hit as Logic continued, saying, “To all the beautiful countries filled with culture, diversity and thousands of years of history, you are not s***holes,” a reference to a comment Trump supposedly made during an immigration policy meeting at the White House a few weeks ago.
Maybe there wasn’t one single color worn to show solidarity on the red carpet. Maybe winning a Grammy does not affect a musician’s career as much as it used to. Maybe your favorite artist didn’t win an award. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is much to be learned and celebrated from the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Celebrities took advantage of the platform they have been given to speak about important subjects and pursue change, and we can expect to see this trend continue throughout other awards shows.
To see a full list of the 60th Grammy Award nominees and winners, click here.
Featured image courtesy of Grammy.com.