Stars attending Sunday night’s Grammy Awards might have worn or carried white roses to show solidarity with the Time’s Up movement and Kesha’s #MeToo performance of her hit ballad “Praying” certainly struck a chord. But while the awards show confronted these important issues on the surface, some are saying it’s just for show.
After winners in the main categories were announced with a majority of the honorees being male — with the exception of Alessia Cara being named Best New Artist during the broadcast — many took to social media to question the Recording Academy’s choices.
In particular, in the category for Best Pop Solo Performance, Ed Sheeran won — over four women (Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Lady Gaga and Pink) — with a love song about being infatuated by a woman’s body.
Lady Gaga wrote Million Reasons in a healing process to recover from a severe heartbreak. Kesha wrote Praying after being through her literal worst nightmare. Ed Sheeran wrote Shape Of You about a club girl he was horny for. Congratulations Recording Academy. Thank you for this.
— Monster Reactions (@LMonsterReacts) January 29, 2018
My son is confused about why Ed Sheeran won for a song that says "I'm in love with your body" when women are speaking out about being objectified and I honestly don't know what to tell him.
— Jen Chaney (@chaneyj) January 29, 2018
Also I’m not attacking Ed Sheeran because I know he has had struggles but they weren’t portrayed on divide when there were 3 very qualified UNIQUE female artists who wrote their albums with a purpose and not just 12 love songs
— † madz † (@witnessdelrey) January 29, 2018
lol Ed Sheeran the one dude in a category with 4 iconic women and he wins and doesn't show up. Music industry in a nutshell.
— Luke O'Neil (@lukeoneil47) January 29, 2018
Best Pop Solo Performance:
And the Grammy goes to…the lad who is less talented than these 4 incredible women. DO BETTER #GRAMMYs.
— Ryan Knight, PROUD RESISTER (@ProudResister) January 29, 2018
Praying: about coming back from sexual assault—million reasons: emotional ballad about heartbreak and a big style change for artist —what about us : political song about the government—love so soft: different forms of love—shape of you: about a girls body..and shape of you won?!
— Zoe (@ZoeLemosMusic) January 29, 2018
Despite the lack of trophies awarded to women, the night’s theatrics made them a centerpiece with many meaningful performances. Pink stepped onto the giant stage at Madison Square Garden wearing baggy jeans and a plain white T-shirt, her “mom outfit,” to belt out “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.” Then there was Cara, along with Logic and Khalid, who gave a heartfelt performance of their Grammy-nominated song, “1-800-273-8255,” which is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Janelle Monaé introduced the most powerful moment of the show with a rousing speech. “To those who would dare try to 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,” she said while introducing Kesha. “Because, you see, it’s not just going on in Hollywood. It’s not just going on in Washington. It’s right here in our industry as well. And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.”
Then, Kesha was joined by artists Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Bebe Rexha, Julia Michaels, Andra Day and more for a rousing rendition of her song “Praying.” Long before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements gained steam in Hollywood, Kesha led her own battle against sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of music producer Dr. Luke. Conveniently, Kesha was recognized for the song and her efforts against sexual assault now, at the height of movement, when at the time of her lawsuit, the industry did not side with her claims.
And while all these talented women were trotted out, they still went home empty handed. Fans were quick to note that instead of awarding women who are using their art to directly address real-life issues, the academy awarded men who, once again, sang about sexualizing women’s bodies.
When asked to comment on the lack of women winning Grammys, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told Variety women need to “step up.” He didn’t elaborate on what stepping up looks like in the music industry, but his comments seemed to insinuate that writing songs about being sexually abused and suicide prevention isn’t a “step” in the right direction. Love ballads and taking off women’s clothing, a theme listeners have heard endlessly, is the more worthy approach, apparently.
The Grammys is obviously trying, on some level. They did acknowledge the strides the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have made in the industry over the last year, but simply talking about an issue is never enough. What’s that old saying again? Actions speak louder than words, and the Grammys’s actions last night told women, we hear you, but we are not listening to you.
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