Last night’s Grammy Awards were kind of boring. A few upbeat performances punctuated what was an uneventful night that was supposed to celebrate excellence in music.
There was very little on-your-feet thumping music from various genres. It was replaced by political statements on a few issues.
If you just wanted to hear the best – or at least the most popular – songs that America has to offer, last night’s show didn’t have much of that. Sure, Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi performed an up-tempo Latin single “Despacito” flanked by flashing lights and sexy dancers, and pop star Bruno Mars teamed up with rapper Cardi B for an ‘90s hip-hop-inspired collaboration. But that was about it.
Other than sad ballads, political messages – mostly directed to or making fun of the White House – filled the over three-hour show. Musicians being political is to be expected, but overdoing it turns off viewers.
Here are six political moments from the 2018 Grammys:
Trevor Noah – Well into the show it seemed that politics would be absent from the show until comedian Trevor Noah stepped on stage. After the Bruno Mars performance, he joked: “That was amazing. I love that song. It takes me back. Like way back, to when Trump wasn’t president.” From that point, the door was open to political disses and finger-wagging.
Music’s #MeToo moment – Singer Kesha led an emotional performance of her song, “Praying,” with Rihanna, Cyndi Lauper, and a host of other women decked out in white. The song was written in response to her public battle with her management and allegations of rape and sexual abuse by her producer. Entertainer Janelle Monae opened Kesha’s performance with a speech that talked about the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up initiative. It’s too bad that like others, she lumped together sexual harassment and sexual assault with the pay gap as though both are equal. They are not.
Jay-Z for President – During one of his acceptance speeches, rapper Kendrick Lamar shouted “Jay-Z for President.” It was either to assuage his mentor because Jay-Z lost in all eight categories he was nominated including several categories in which Lamar beat him. Or perhaps it was in response to Jay-Z’s comments about black employment and President Trump. Apparently, a job isn’t enough for black people, the government needs to make them happy too.
"Fire and Fury" Spoken Word – In a satirical skit, John Legend, Cher, Snoop Dogg, and Cardi B., auditioned for a spoken word job for the Trump-bashing book “Fire and Fury.” It ended awkwardly when Hillary Clinton snags the speaking role and celebrates a likely Grammy win. Perhaps a 2019 music award will be the consolation prize for losing the 2016 election.
Dreamers on Stage – Cuban-Mexican singer Camilla Cabello opened a pre-taped performance by rock band U2. It was a resistance-themed song and performance. U2 played on a barge with the State of Liberty as a backdrop crooning their new song, which calls on people to “fight back” and “bite back.” Cabello shared her immigrant story and pleaded to defend immigrants brought here illegally as children (aka so-called Dreamers).
- Logic’s Immigration Logic – Rapper Logic performed his Grammy-nominated song “1-800-273-8255” about suicide prevention. The performance, which featured suicide-attempt survivors and family members of victims, evoked deep emotions about this deadly social issue. However, that moment was overshadowed by his speech indirectly responding to President Trump’s comments about immigrant countries.
Some politics is to be expected at award shows, but after a while it becomes tiresome.
Entertainers still don’t get it. Americans look to them for their craft and skill, not their politics. Perhaps that’s (partly) why ratings for the Grammy’s fell from the previous year.