Rough with the smooth seems to be the way we’re taking things now. Fascists run the government but citizens are more politically active than ever. Bees are going extinct, but manatees aren’t. Got your Coachella ticket, realized the owner is a hater. Every victory comes laced with an L, and while some we must swallow others we don’t deserve that luxury. The Grammys are one such mess we’ve failed to clean up, and music does suffer as a result.
This is especially a tragedy because these awards celebrate something very near and dear not just to me but millions the world over: music. Yet for every brilliant performance or recognition they provide, the Grammys also ruin it with their astoundingly out-of-touch worldviews.
It goes without saying that the Grammys have a terrible track record. One needs only to look at the Best New Artist category to get an idea of exactly how “with it” the recording academy is. Yes, Amy Winehouse rightfully one that award, but she should have won it five years prior. The same could be said of Bon Iver and Chance The Rapper, who I’ll touch on in a second. Unfortunately, when it comes to Best New Artist, your material alone will not suffice, it must first be popular enough for the academy to care.
That being said, the act of an independent young artist like Chance the Rapper winning Best New Artist is, like everything these days, conflicting. On one hand you have this young, rousing talent shifting the way music is both made and distributed, a victory. Yet, anyone who’s been paying attention knows Chance debuted in 2012, and has since then put out a wealth of material. So to claim him as a “new artist” is a slap in the face to all the prior work he’s put out.
Meanwhile, there’s Katy Perry in general. If I’m being honest I’ll admit my soft spot for Ms. Hudson, but I won’t overlook her appropriation of other’s cultures, or her silence on the matter. On the flipside, you saw her at Hillary’s side from Day 1, and gotta love a girl who commits to her politics, because you know, people aren’t always cool with that.
But politics were not shied away from last night, as evidenced by Anderson Paak and A Tribe Called Quest’s denunciation of “President Agent Orange”. They know, just like anyone with a brain that’s read up on history, our current political climate requires people taking their platforms and using them. So it was cute and all of the president of the recording academy, Neil Portnow, to voice the need for new laws regarding copyright and artistry, but a truly fantastic speech would have touched upon the plight of Kesha. Locked into a contract with her abuser and unable produce new music, Kesha’s struggle represents that of many women not just in music but in business in general, and any executive committed to inspiring change should discuss this.
For every brilliant Cynthia Erivo and Andra Day moment, there were 50 million technical ones in the background, for titans like Adele and Gaga no less. As Roxane Gay accurately points out, Los Angeles possesses no shortage of audio talent to choose from, so there are only two takeaways from that: either the Grammys are hiring the wrong people, or the Grammys themselves are simply run by the wrong people.
Which honestly one could say after a few years of this already. Thank our lucky scones above Adele is so bluntly charming, not many other acts could channel their feelings so honestly or without looking like an idiot. Flushed with a range of emotions, she gave Queen Bey the acknowledgement she rightly deserves, and broke her (fake) award onstage in the most metaphorical depiction of the Grammys ever.
Chance the Rapper and Beyoncé Knowles inspire more than creativity, their music inspires confidence and self-worth. If anyone was going to get me wholeheartedly believing it God, it would be those two. The ceremony may largely be boring, yet these two are anything but. Both celebrated their artistry, music, and culture with breathtaking performances, and should stand as a fundamental testament as to why the Grammys can matter.
None of you going to Coachella need be worried about anything. Beyoncé could go into labor mid-hair-flip and still deliver the performance of the century.
Of course, it’s up to you, like the Grammys, to realize that artistry when it’s presented to you. Otherwise, you’re gonna look like the Grammys: behind.