By James Mercadante
The biggest night in music, better known as the Grammy Awards, aired live on Jan. 28 from New York City, and proved to be another misfortunate evening. A lack of diversity remained within this year’s selection of winners. Since 2017, the award show’s ratings have dropped tremendously for a few reasons.
For one, some feel that the show has grown to be too politically biased.
Embedding politics in national television programs can divide viewers along demographic lines, which may explain the drop in ratings this year. James Corden, who hosted the Grammys this year, included political skits that took time away from musical performances.
Seeing the 2018 nominations list was truly exciting, as we witnessed a significant amount of black artists being nominated for Grammys, like Kendrick Lamar, SZA and Childish Gambino. The Recording Academy paid attention to viewers’ outrage last year, and recognized the controversial patterns in predominantly handing out awards to white musicians.
Although nominees were more diverse this year, audience members still did not witness more than three women win an award that was televised.
The academy did a number of things wrong in this area. They did not offer Lorde a solo performance for the night, even though male artists like Bruno Mars, Gambino and Lamar were all allowed to perform their own.
Ella Yellich O’Connor, a self-made lyricist and producer, was the only woman nominated for the Album of the Year award. The Grammy-nominated artist refused to perform a duo, because she felt that she deserved the same respect as the other male nominees. This lends itself to the presumption that there was gender bias in the selection process for performers.
Another moment that infuriated audiences was when Ed Sheeran won Best Pop Solo Performance for “Shape of You.” The rest of the nominees were all women, including Lady Gaga, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson and Kesha.
Right after Sheeran’s win, audience members took to social media to discuss the absurdity of “Shape of You” being valued over “Praying,” since Sheeran’s vocals and lyrics were less emotive, insightful and compelling than Kesha’s.
Kesha’s “Praying” sends a message about surviving sexual assault and contains powerful vocals that are extremely challenging, yet impactful.
The best part? Sheeran didn’t even attend the ceremony.
Even after Grammys tried so hard to be progressive, it was set back by the Recording Academy deeming a song about sex worthier than one about surviving sexual assault. Decisions like these cast doubt on the standards used by the academy to judge one song as superior to another.
Despite the poor decision-making, there were many highlights of the night. Lamar opened the ceremony with his performance of “XXX” and “DNA,” two songs that promote the message of black empowerment through their lyrical themes.
Kesha sang “Praying” with a variety of other supporting women behind her, representing the countless number of women participating in movements like Time’s Up or #MeToo, who have also endured the trauma of sexual abuse.
Blue Ivy Carter stole the show, as the camera zoomed in on her gracefully demanding her parents to stop clapping. Maren Morris, Eric Church and Brothers Osborne dedicated a beautiful rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” to the 81 victims of the Las Vegas and Manchester shootings.
The Grammy Awards were not perfect this year, but perfection is impossible to achieve. While it’s hard to please everyone, the academy has plenty of room for growth in where they can reconsider the selections they make for the future. These choices have a deeper meaning than just which piece of music the academy believes to be better. It speaks volumes to who we are as a society and what we are comfortable with recognizing as excellence.