For once, there was a noteworthy performance at the Grammys that didn’t have anything to do with Satan or a certain obscene song by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. No, this year’s viral performance was an understated duet between a country music star and a singer-songwriter whose biggest hit came out in the ‘80s. 

That hit was “Fast Car,” Tracy Chapman’s ballad about striving for a better life. It became a top-10 hit after it was released in 1988. Then, last year, country crooner Luke Combs released a cover of the song (“my favorite song before I even knew what a favorite song was”), which topped the country charts. Since the Grammys performance, streaming numbers for Chapman’s original have exploded. 

This musical crossover is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the unifying power of music: Chapman is black and a lesbian, and Combs is about as stereotypical of a country boy as you can get. Combs has helped reignite Chapman’s popularity, and she’s making good money off the publishing royalties that grow every time someone buys Combs’s rendition. “Fast Car” is arguably about chasing the American dream: “I know things will get better/ You’ll find work and I’ll get promoted/ And we’ll move out of the shelter/ Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs.”

What’s not to like? A lot, according to the legacy media writers who always know how to spoil a good thing. Last summer, an entertainment reporter for the Washington Post spent nearly 2,000 words complaining that Combs’s cover “renew[s] difficult conversations about diversity in Nashville.”

“Although many are thrilled to see ‘Fast Car’ back in the spotlight and a new generation discovering Chapman’s work, it’s clouded by the fact that, as a Black queer woman, Chapman, 59, would have almost zero chance of that achievement herself in country music,” the reporter wrote. 

Keeping the faux controversy alive, a CNN contributor wrote after the Grammys performance that it “felt like the first fair moment since the single released last year.” 

Sure, she acknowledges, Chapman won three Grammys after “Fast Car” came out. But, the writer continues, ”it’s often felt wrong to me that Combs, a White male country music star in an industry that continues to struggle with issues of race and sexuality, has shot to the stratosphere with a cover of a song created so uniquely by Chapman, a Black woman and queer icon.”

It’s hard to argue either that Chapman isn’t getting proper credit for her work or that she isn’t making enough money from it. So writers have resorted to complaining about country music more generally or stoking racial divisions for the purpose of having a take. Combs is practically mailing envelopes stuffed with cash to a black lesbian, and the “woke” literati are complaining she’s not getting enough credit.

When you watch the two artists perform at the Grammys, you can see the respect Combs holds for Chapman, particularly as the song finishes and he immediately holds out his hands to acknowledge her. The duet and the reaction to it was a rare moment of unity. We shouldn’t let the critics pretend otherwise.