So. . .the Grammys were Sunday night: Part fashion show, part rock concert, part awards show. Madonna made (some?) of us vow to go back to the gym and posed as a confused matador/flamenco dancer. Kanye West took his pro-Beyonce stance to the stage when Beck won song of the year. Tom Jones and Jessie J decided to honor marriage with a vocal acrobatics version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. Apparently, nothing says love quite as much as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. Wait, what is that sound? Bobby Hatfield spinning.
The performances. . .oh the performances. Beyonce standing in for Ledisi and singing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” in the Selma tribute. Controversial, to be sure. Ledisi’s version is more true to Mahalia Jackson’s version and appropriate for the role she was playing. Bey was being Bey and singing it her way. No right or wrong, just different.
In keeping with the tradition of the Grammys addressing social issues, many artists and President Obama himself addressed the topic of violence. Many performances included the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popularized by the protests in Ferguson, Chicago and New York City, most notably in Beyonce’s and Pharrel’s performances. One of the most common complaints from viewers on social media, however, was “Why does activism have to ruin all the big events? Why can’t they just be fun?” No More ran a PSA during the Super Bowl addressing the realities of domestic violence. President Obama spoke out about domestic violence and sexual assault. A domestic violence survivor spoke and Katy Perry addressed domestic violence with her performance of “By The Grace of God”.
Here’s the thing: Even if PSAs hadn’t been broadcast, music, for eons has addressed social issues and pushed for social change and awareness. “We Are The World”, “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?”, “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?” were all debuted in an awards setting. Music speaks to the times. Messages force us to come along and address things that we might rather turn our eyes and minds from. Social activism via mediums such as music and art bring us along for change.
So I leave you with this question: Is it offensive because the PSAs were not performances or offensive because they force us to think about unpleasant things?
Brooke Axtell shares her truth at the 2015 Grammy Awards