So, I really wasn’t planning to watch the Grammys this year.
I forget what award or performance snub pissed me off but I stopped watching the Grammys years ago, Googling only the categories I’m interested in to see who won. Categories, by the way, that never got a millisecond of airtime anyway, so my personal boycott was never difficult.
And then, this greeted me early on a Wednesday morning.
Anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any significant amount of time knows that I will move heaven, earth and maybe some smuggled body parts to watch him, as the old folks used to say, “spit across the line.” So that basically meant my Grammy boycott didn’t stand a chance. And I actually watched it live all the way through the Hamilton performance and win, and was pleased with a great deal of what I saw. I expected no less than complete awesomeness from HAMILTON, and they did not disappoint in either the performance or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s traditionally expected acceptance rap. But I was treated to some very pleasant and well-performed moments, such as the new artist duets, the Kendrick Lamar performance, and the artist tributes. I love that Lionel Richie not only received an all-star musical tribute in connection with his AmeriCares Humanitarian Award, but got to participate in it. And of the memorial performances, my absolute favorite was the collaboration of Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix saluting Maurice White; however I did appreciate the fact that Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Lady Gaga and Bonnie Raitt devoted their stage time to Glenn Frye, David Bowie and B.B. King, respectively.
But even with all of that, there’s still a lot that Grammy should have done WAY better. The sound issues, rushed thank yous, and usual snubs of certain categories in the broadcast have needed attention for years, and are probably among the reasons I stopped watching. But one in particular has folks up in arms–the paltry mention of the late Natalie Cole.
And this Mic article didn’t help the conversation progress:
Being in broadcasting and having some experience on what it takes to navigate getting a live show on and off the air in a timely manner, I can understand the choices behind some of the argued points; for example, the fact that Natalie Cole got an extended moment during the In Memoriam segment but not a musical tribute seems to be more at the discretion of the performing artists and not the Grammys executives. And as there are a lot of categories that don’t even get an on-air mention, I can understand not having a separate performance scheduled for her.
However, the protests are not entirely wrong….
Something I did not know before I clicked on the Mic article was that Natalie was the first Black artist to win the Best New Artist award. Given that place in Grammy history AND her legacy as the daughter of Nat King Cole–another musical groundbreaker–you would think that would automatically get her at least a couple of lines in the awards presentation. I’m sure Sam Smith wouldn’t have minded saying a thing or two about her in presenting the Best New Artist award, an award he himself received the previous year.
But the larger issue is that I saw VERY FEW female artist categories, more male performers spotlighted than females, and a seeming disregard for providing them any airtime at all–did you see Ed Sheeran’s female co-writer get completely cut off before being allowed to speak? Time crunch or not, that was completely unacceptable.
And this is probably why the Natalie Cole “slight” is such a big deal. People spoke up about the men who passed on. Most of the male presenters and performers got their full say. And while three of the biggest female names in current popular music got solo spots, the rest of the ladies were lumped into duets and groups–good performances, mind you, but it gives the appearance that female solo artists are undervalued. There needs to be a better balance between the big name draws and the up and comers, the male and female artists, the popular and less exposed genres, what’s expressive and what sells. Naturally, there’s no way to make everybody happy every time…but what we see is not lining up with what you’re saying. You cannot tell us you celebrate all kinds of music and feature the same artists and categories every single year. You cannot keep parading a musical sausagefest and then say how proud you are of women’s contributions to the field. That’s why people feel that Natalie Cole deserved more than she got…not only for the sake of her legacy, but for the women who stand on her shoulders.