Patience Kayira ’20
CBS broadcasted the 60th annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 28.
A great deal of the audience wore white roses to testify their support of the “Time’s Up” movement. The white rose, according to Vox, “symbolizes the strength and solidarity amongst the women who testified to #MeToo.” This symbol set the tone for a serious, contemplative award show.
With themes of hope, terror and activism appearing in every performance, the Grammys became a platform for musicians to advocate for social change
The evening began with a five part performance by Kendrick Lamar featuring Dave Chappelle.
This opening performance reminded grammy-goers and viewers about the intense climate on American racial politics and police brutality. A waving American flag rippled in the background as male backup dancers, dressed in green militant style attire, marched with stern expressions.
“The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America,” Dave Chappelle said after the sound of a gun-shot in the audio track went off.
The entire performance left me stunned and slightly worried. From the evocative lyrics of: “Burn integrity, burn your pedigree, burn your feelings,” and the interplay of militant-style choreography, Kendrick Lamar shared his careful vision about rap music. “It’s about putting paint on a canvas for the world to evolve,” Lamar said as he accepted his award for “Best Rap Album.”
As Bruno Mars said half-jokingly and fully inebriated at the end of the ceremony, “There were too many ballads in here.” Mars’s observation was well-supported by the series of slower songs that paid tribute to some of the devastating events that happened in 2017.
Following Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga lead a poignant performance which she dedicated for “love and compassion, even when you can’t understand.”
Dressed in a blush fluffy ball gown, Gaga evoked angelicness and hope as she sang, “Joanne” and “Million Reasons.”
Among other contemplative performances, Marren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Eric Church sang a tribute for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
KE$HA, alongside Camilla Cabello, Andra Day, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha performed “Praying.”
Janelle Monae introduced the moving performance, saying firmly, “Women in the business … we come in peace, but we mean business.” Monae was also among the many stars who wore a Time’s Up pin and a white rose.
“Praying” symbolizes KE$HA’s return to the music industry after a five-year break caused by an ongoing legal battle between the artist and her former music producer, Dr. Luke. All of the women wore white to communicate the message of standing in solidarity with women. The group of women also helped KE$HA sing this poignant song as she was brought on the verge of tears.
Another memorable performance was Rihanna's “Wild Thoughts” with D.J. Khalid. “Wild Thoughts” featured an ensemble of dancers in 1920s and 1970s inspired costumes. The performance and choreography was reminiscent of a musical theatre dance number. I was reminded of the vaudeville sequence in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
In an article with The Atlantic, Phillippa Price, Rihanna's choreographer, said that inspiration for the choreography stemmed from inspirations “Soul Train + Cuban + New African dance styles + ’70s disco + Bob Fosse.”
Even though this performance was artistically elaborate, the online community can only seem to remember Rihanna's appearance.
Although Rhianna looked elegant in a sparkling fuschia dress, Twitter reacted by focusing on Rihanna's weight. According to Teen Vogue, fans tweeted asking whether Rihanna is pregnant. One person even went as far to write, “is Rihanna pregnant or is she just having an all you can eat buffet at every meal of the day.”
These comments seem ironic in light of the Grammys theme for standing in solidarity with women. Brittney McNamara from Teen Vogue quotes Molly Sanchez, saying, “Speculating whether Rihanna is pregnant adds to the exploitation of women by requiring women to explain their bodies and shape.”
Even though the Grammys had a series of wonderful performances, it was not a perfect awards show.
The host, James Corden, tried too hard to lighten the mood with recycled puns and flat jokes. Furthermore, Ed Sheeran won the category for “Best Pop Solo” with “Shape of You.” I find this to be even more ironic given this category was comprised of nearly all women.
Don’t get me wrong, “Shape of You” is a catchy tune, but the lyrics reinforce the objectification and exploitation of women’s bodies.
Alessia Cara was the only woman who received a televised award, while Bruno Mars took home six awards. These results only seem to diminish the Academy’s attempt to be more socially aware.
Although it is good that the Academy is aware that there is a problem, the solutions are not all that great.