The Grammy’s award ceremony has been a celebration of the artistic integrity and talents of American and British musicians for the last 59 years. It can be argued that the U.S. music industry (like most industries) is still male-dominated, even with the success of many women musicians and artists. There were many memorable moments that took place at this year’s event, but I’d like to spotlight some of the ladies who made the evening extra special. Thank you for your art, courage, strength, and contributions to both music and feminism.
With an ensemble alluding to either Mother Mary or the Statue of Liberty (both are equally applicable), Beyonce absolutely slayed her live performance. Her musical masterpiece not only thoroughly entertained us, but it also directly addressed feminist issues in front of a national audience (yet again). Performing as a Black, pregnant woman shatters so many glass ceilings on its own, but Bey deliberately spoke to the conflicting roles of motherhood in a patriarchal society. Basic gender theory tells us that women’s sexual objectification includes the eroticism of women as child bearers for men. Our worth lies in our ability to be fucked, give birth, and continue a man’s biological legacy–to serve his needs and the needs of his children (but not our own). Despite this, Beyonce embraces her pregnancy and motherhood as a symbol of the strength she has as both a mother and a human being. Her performance showed that women–even pregnant women–are more than mothers and child bearers. We can be talented artists and performers. We can be strong and fierce. We can have influence on others, and we can advocate for what is right and just. We are movers and shakers and doers. Most importantly, we are dynamic, autonomous human beings, and we cannot be silenced.
Adele may have had to request a redo of her memorial performance for the late George Michael, but she did a very crucial act of solidarity that did not go unnoticed. In her acceptance speech for album of the year, she dedicated her award to Beyonce and thanked her for her album Lemonade. Specifically, she thanks her for what her music does for other Black women, so that they can feel empowered. As an adored artist among many White consumers, her public recognition of the disenfranchisement Black women face is an example of how White women can utilize our privilege for social change.
3. Katy Perry
Katy Perry performed her latest single “Chained to the Rhythm,” a political pop song that addresses people’s complacency and hesitation to question the status quo. The performance reflected that theme through its purposeful use of costuming and set design. The first few things I noticed were the symbols Perry incorporated in her costume: a Planned Parenthood lapel pin, an armband that read “Persist,” and rose-colored glasses. The set she performed on was framed in a white-picket fence that barricaded her in. Once she broke free, the fence turned into mirrors, asking the audience to look inward and reflect. She then removed her rose-colored glasses in a vow to see the world for what it truly is. After digital projections of water and fire splashed across the stage, the final image the audience saw was the U.S. constitution, something that our current president continues to disregard. While the song isn’t strong enough to become a political anthem, her performance grabbed the attention of a major audience and spoke to themes of activism and social justice in an easily digestible way.
4. Alicia Keys and Maren Morris
The duet performed by Alicia Keys and Maren Morris was, in many ways, symbolic of intersectional feminism. Keys is a Black, R&B artist who has won 15 Grammys. Morris is a White, Country artist who just won her first Grammy earlier that evening. The two, despite their differences in race, musical genre, and fame, collaborated to create a beautiful piece of art for a diverse audience to enjoy. Plus, Alicia Key’s #NoMakeup movement is a classic form of feminist resistance that carries extra weight in the music industry.
5. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox’s success on television, such as her role in Orange is the New Black, has helped to bring more representation of the trans community in mainstream media. Granted, we still have a long way to go, but her presence on television and inclusion in the Grammy’s award ceremony is both necessary and important. Cox is not only a talented actress, but she also uses her visibility as a platform to advocate for other trans people. During her introduction of Metallica and Lady Gaga’s performance, Cox took a moment to bring attention to Gavin Grimm, a high school student and trans boy from Virginia. Grimm has been involved in a legal battle with his school, who will not allow him to use the boy’s bathroom because he was born female. Cox told the audience that the Supreme Court is presiding over Grimm’s case in March, and that they should read more about it. She also promoted the hashtag #StandWithGavin. This is another example of using privilege (in this case, the privilege of wealth and fame) to support others who are marginalized.
6. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga didn’t necessarily provide any political commentary during the Grammy’s this year (although she often does in her live performances). However, as a performer, she did an incredible job keeping the show rolling when her set with Metallica started off with mic and sound issues. There was probably a lot of anxiety and pressure to deal with, but she proceeded with all of the ferocity that made us fall in love with her years ago.
Rihanna is a bad bitch and we were graced by her presence. Period.