They may seem like strange bedfellows to many, but by the end of Sunday’s Grammy telecast, fans of rock music, rap music fans, women and the president – yes, POTUS 45 – all shared a unique bond. They were all snubbed by the 60th Edition of “music’s biggest event.”
On a night when diversity, unity, immigration, depression and oppression were all addressed by the celebrities who paraded across the stage to present and accept Grammys recognizing the “best” in last year’s musical achievements, the actual results stunned the many in attendance – and those who watched on TV – in what was reportedly the lowest-rated Grammy awards ever.
Women and men both wore white outfits or corsages in honor of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in a show of unity against harassment and unequal treatment of women. Obligatory speeches were made and emotional performances given (the best one by pop singer Kesha and a host of other women of her recent top-30 hit, “Praying”) to deliver messages of empowerment in an era when stories emerge almost daily about women’s abuse suffered at the hands of powerful men.
The only problem there? The Grammys didn’t walk that talk.
Only one woman won in any of the major categories presented on the telecast (pop singer Alessia Cara for Best New Artist), and even that award didn’t seem authentic – Cara had a #1 hit on several Billboard charts as far back as 2015/16 with her début single “Here” and another top ten hit months later. She beat out actual new candidates like 2017 breakout R&B star SZA, whose emergence in the past year would make more sense for “new” artist recognition.
The only woman up for Album of the Year, Lorde (shown above), was also the only nominee in that category who didn’t perform on the program – a decision by the show’s producers that is getting the flack it so richly deserves.
What’s worse is NARAS President Neil Portnow is now having to walk back his explanation that women need to “step up” their game to better compete in the major categories. As for the show’s decision not to include Lorde, producers used the lame excuse that there’s only room for so many artists.
Maybe that’s why hip-hop performers like omnipresent hype man DJ Khaled and singer Rihanna got to perform “Wild Thoughts” on the same bill that Bruno Mars and the equally ubiquitous rapper Cardi B did their popular ‘90s-themed “Finesse.” Surely one of those could have been swapped with a tune from Lorde’s Best-Album contender.
And speaking of Mars, everyone knows by now about his sweep of the three biggest awards (Best Album, Record and Song), which came at the expense of arguably more deserving – and certainly more critically acclaimed – albums by rappers Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z and Childish Gambino. It was Lamar’s third loss in the Best Album category in five years, the kind of result that the Grammys have notoriously been rightly criticized for throughout their history. JAY-Z incredibly went 0-for-8 after garnering the most nominations of anyone this year.
Hip-hop fans were understandably pissed off, if not for JAY-Z’s snub, certainly for Lamar’s. Yes, he took home five trophies Sunday night, but four of those were in the niche rap category and one was for best video. Creatively, it’ll be hard for him to top the crowning achievement that was last year’s DAMN. Sadly, his due recognition may have to come for a lesser album several years down the road – say, when he’s 50 and all mellowed out. The Grammys certainly have a history of recognizing heritage artists long past their primes.
And speaking of heritage artists, were it not for bands like U2 performing, rock music would have been pretty much non-existent on the Grammy stage. Even popular groups like Imagine Dragons (interestingly nominated in pop categories instead of rock ones) weren’t invited to perform. And everyone already knows about rock music’s shutout in all the major categories this year.
But NARAS and rock-and-roll have historically been at odds with each other, with the Grammys being more known for its rock flubs (Jethro Tull as heavy metal winner, anyone?) than for actually getting it right.
Which brings me to Donald Trump, the easy target of so many thinly veiled political messages on Grammy night, whether it be about his immigration policies (rapper Logic’s speech of diversity and inclusion after his performance of “1-800-273-8255”), his stance on racial issues (Lamar’s striking opening performance) or the Trump White House (a comical “spoken-word” reading of the now-famous Michael Wolff book “Fire and Fury” by several musicians and Trump’s nemesis Hillary Clinton).
Surely the sight of Clinton lending any amount of credibility to a book the White House has officially derided as more “fake news” couldn’t have sat well with POTUS 45 (and you just know he was watching).
The only irony in this (besides the fact that Trump didn’t tweet about it that morning) is that Clinton was featured on a night when women were otherwise mostly overlooked – at least in the awards themselves.
And that’s why women – along with rock and rap fans – are unwittingly in the same post-Grammys snub-club, with as much fodder to tweet about as The Donald himself.
Maybe next year the Grammys will do better.