The 2018 Grammys was a bit of a misogynistic shithole, wasn’t it?
The evening’s controversy stems from women winning just seventeen of the eighty-six Grammy awards this year, and only one woman (Alessia Cara) taking home a Grammy award for a main English-language nomination.
Just FYI, here’s how the Recording Academy officially describes the award show: “The Grammys are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” So what the hell happened last night then?!
Exhibit A: Best Pop Solo Performance
The Best Pop Solo Performance had four female nominees (Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Lady Gaga and P!nk) and one male nominee (Ed Sheeran). Kesha was nominated for Praying, a Goliath of a song about finding forgiveness for her abuser after fear of never releasing music again. Praying is for sure the standout in the list (which Kelly Clarkson herself backed), and it’s hard to imagine a song which exhibits such raw honesty not taking home the award. Unfortunately, we don’t need to imagine – because that’s exactly what happened. Shape of You, Ed Sheeran‘s radio fodder where he sexually objectifies a girl in the club he was horny for, won. How? How is awarding Shape of You’s mediocrity over Praying an honor to “artistic achievement” in any way?!
Exhibit B: Best Pop Vocal Album
Kesha‘s comeback album, Rainbow, was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album against Lady Gaga‘s Joanne, Kaleidoscope EP by Coldplay, Lust for Life by Lana Del Rey, Evolve by Imagine Dragons and ÷ (Divide) by Ed Sheeran. Kesha‘s triumphant album, by a long shot, pushed the boundaries of what we expect from our artists, in terms of what they stand for and what they speak out on, and the story Kesha told with it is nothing short of a beautiful victory against her abuser. Lana Del Rey offered a humble ray of hope with Lust for Life, an album which served as her response to the political unrest so prevailant in the world today. Now remember, the Grammy award is supposed to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” So how was the decision made to give this award to Ed Sheeran‘s album?? Ed‘s music definitely sold a lot more, but I don’t know how to view it as a greater “artistic achievement” than Rainbow or Lust for Life.
Exhibit C: Album of the Year and Lorde’s Live Snub
And then we have the most prestigious Grammy award – the coveted Album of the Year award. This category is a little harder to become irritated about; sure, it’s not great that only one woman was a nominee, but to find a flaw in that and not a flaw in the nominee list for Best Pop Solo Performance would be hypocritical – the nominee ratio is the same for each, but the sex is not. Lorde, the only female nominee for this year’s Album of the Year, did not take home the award for her critically acclaimed opus Melodrama. Instead, it went to Bruno Mars and his 24K Magic record. Did Lorde deserve the Album of the Year award more than any other nominee? No more so than Bruno Mars. Let’s be unbiased about this one, because each album seemed a worthy consideration and in line with the Grammys’ “overall excellence” tagline – they were all critically acclaimed.
The issue with this category lies in the fact that out of all five nominees, only one artist was snubbed to perform music on the stage of an award show deeming their music to be a so-called Album of the Year. That artist? Lorde. And what makes that a problem is the reaction from the Grammys’ producer Ken Ehrlich. Ehrlich was asked by a reporter whether it was “a mistake” to not invite Lorde to perform. “I don’t know if it was a mistake,” Ehrlich chose to declare (it was, btw). “She had a great album, album of the year is a big honor, but there’s no way we can really deal with everybody. Sometimes people get left out that shouldn’t, but on the other hand, we did the best we can to make sure that it’s a representative and balanced show.” Really? You really did the best? Did we really need that damn Sting and Shaggy performance over one from Lorde, a nominee for the Grammy award for Album of the Year?
Ehrlich‘s comments on Lorde‘s live snub at the Grammys were echoed by Neil Portnow, the President of the Recording Academy: “We have a wealth of riches every year, and it’s hard to have a balanced show and have everybody involved. We can’t have a performance from every nominee — we have over 80 categories — so we have to realize that we have to create something that has balance.” Sounds like Portnor and Ehrlich missed the point, or were just acting obtuse, because nobody asked for a performance from every nominee, and that wasn’t the issue at hand. The issue is Lorde was the only nominee not invited to perform from a category they admit is a “big honor” – and neither men could offer a satisfactory explanation.
Exhibit D: Broken Clocks and Broken Expectations
Awards are nice, but winning at the Grammys doesn’t necessarily matter; the good sister Rihanna was nominated for eight Grammys in 2017 and won none of them, losing to the likes of The Chainsmokers. This year we all thought SZA, 2017’s breakout star, had at least one of her five nominations in the bag. SZA was nominated in five different categories at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance, making her this year’s most nominated woman. SZA won none of them (Alessia Cara’s album came out in 2015, so how exactly did that qualify her to win Best New Artist over SZA?) but then graciously snatched wigs with her performance of Broken Clocks:
Exhibit E: Women Need to Step Up!
The biggest joke of the evening came from Neil Portnow speaking to Variety about the trending #GrammySoMale hashtag. He had a whole lot of bullshit to spew, basically about how women didn’t get nominated because they aren’t creative enough and need to “step up” in order to start excelling in the music industry:
I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls — who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level — to step up, because I think they would be welcome… I don’t have personal experience with the kinds of brick walls that (women) face, but I think it’s really a combination of us in the industry making a welcome mat very obvious: creating mentorships, creating opportunities, not only for women, but for all people. And moving forward, creating that next generation of artists who feel like they can do anything and say anything.
– Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy.
Okay, yeah, elements of that do sound like a nice mentality. But what Portnow said about women needing to step up is a fucking lie.
Are we going to act like Dawn Richard isn’t out here creatively pushing the boundaries of everything music can be, every time she drops a new song? Are we going to act like Kesha didn’t pour her fucking soul out on Rainbow? Kesha single-handedly proved Portnow‘s statement wrong – and yet she left empty-handed. MUNA, Jhené Aiko, FEMM, Charli XCX, Ariana Grande, Tinashe, Kelela, Allie X, Demi Lovato… the list is literally endless, because there are so. many. women. in this industry who are so fucking talented, and who consistently ‘step up’ to use that creativity in their hearts to expose their souls in their art. For Portnow to stand there declaring that women are not stepping up is a bullshit slap in the face to the thousands of wildly imaginative women who make this industry the creative hub that it is.
The gritty truth is that women were shafted at the Grammy awards this year. No female artists were even nominated for Record of the Year, as if Bodak Yellow didn’t even happen. What kind of “welcome mat” is that? Females in the music industry aren’t going to feel like they can “do anything and say anything” when we witness things like the underrepresentation of women at the Grammys 2018 and the supposed resolution being to just “step up”. It’s not the women who need to step up – it’s people in power like Neil Portnow who are the ones who need to step up.