Award Shows and Politics

And now my update ratio has become twice a year. Oh well, it’s still here. I should have posted this Monday but I had to turn it in for a class on Tuesday, and well – I really just wanted to see if it sucked before it went on the internet. Also, I can’t quite get the pictures to work cause wordpress has been hella sucky lately. Deal with it.

John Lennon, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga. These three artists have something in common — and it isn’t a Grammy win. So what is it then?

The answer isn’t surprising. It’s politics.

The 58th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center. As seen on CBS.
Kendrick Lamar’s 2016 Grammy Performance

From The anti-war Beatles era, to Lamar’s tense performance in chains at last year’s awards, to Lady Gaga’s support of the LGBTQ community, music has always been a major platform for political movements. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards were no exception.

While many were expecting a politically charged atmosphere, audiences were unsure of just how that might manifest itself. In the past, the Grammys have kept their politics internal. Like every award show, they’ve had their shining political moments, including Lamar’s performance and Mackelmore’s mass marriage ceremony, among others, but the politics surrounding the Grammy’s tend to revolve around who gets snubbed, who isn’t showing, and Taylor and Kanye’s latest feud.

Katy Perry dresses in a pantsuit to keep her message subtle.

But, despite controversy surrounding celebrities sharing their political opinions, presenters, performers and winners alike didn’t back down Sunday night. The evening began with host James Corden’s first jokes about Trump and continued with cries for unity and love from award recipients and presenters. Comments were made about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest and Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court hearing, and Katy Perry donned a sparkly pink “Persist” arm band in support of Senator Elizabeth Warren during her performance.

But Katy’s politics — which involved lyrics about rose-colored glasses and a projection of the U.S. Constitution — were muted by A Tribe Called Quest’s performance with Anderson .Paak. By far the most outspoken and aggressive, Busta Rhymes called out “President Agent Orange,” and the group literally burst through a wall on stage during their performance.

A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson .Paak performed with Busta Rhymes in the most political performance of the night.

Generally speaking, though, the Grammys kept it tame. Very few names were dropped, and instead the messages tended to center around peace, love and unity. The positivity was refreshing after such a negative election cycle.

Sunday’s Grammys were no exception to scrutiny by those who think celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves, but music is such an important tool to inspire change. The message was clear: Avoiding politics has become impossible. In this election cycle, musicians especially were outspoken about their views on the Trump administration. Even republican-registered Steven Tyler threatened to sue The Donald for playing Aerosmith’s famous hit “Dream On” on the campaign trail. If the Grammys had glazed past the political turmoil that the artists have already been outspoken about, it would have been a blatant slap in the face to the fans these artists have inspired.

Instead of focusing on whether or not the Grammys were too political or not political enough, shouldn’t the question be whether or not the message was effective? Will the award show embrace it? Or will next years night of musical recognition sweep it all under the rug?

This year’s Grammy Awards were perhaps some of the most political yet. It was subtle, but it was clear. Artists are done avoiding what’s important to them, and after this year, the Grammys might be forced to quit playing it safe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s