Arts and Entertainment | Analysis
January 29, 2018 at 7:00 AM
Though Bruno Mars’s lighthearted “24K Magic” prevailed over more pointed albums from rappers Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar, the 2018 Grammy Awards managed to get political through the words of its performers and presenters. Their onstage commentary Sunday night ranged from a subtle joke to an unexpected rant, keeping in line with most award ceremonies of the Trump era. Here are some of the celebrities who, in the words of Childish Gambino, stayed woke:
Lamar and Chappelle made for an unusual pairing, but they kicked the show off with a strong message on race. Throughout Lamar’s pyrotechnics-filled performance, which notably included “DNA,” the camera panned to Chappelle, who interjected with comedy. “I just want to remind the audience that the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America,” he said, later adding, “Is this on cable? CBS? Because it looks like he’s singing and dancing, but this brother is taking enormous chances.” American flags and backup dancers dressed in army uniforms rounded out the performance.
Though Chappelle decided to limit his political commentary to Lamar’s performance, keeping his acceptance speech for best comedy album incredibly short, presenter Trevor Noah took it upon himself to be the first person of the night to mention the president. He nodded to Trump’s tweet from Sunday morning that implied the president was responsible for a record-low black unemployment rate, a claim made in response to Jay-Z’s criticism of Trump on Van Jones’s new CNN show.
Noah also followed a lively performance of the “Finesse” remix by saying, “Bruno Mars and Cardi B, that was amazing, wow. I love that song, man. Like, I love that song. It takes me back, you know, like way back to when Trump wasn’t president.”
Kesha’s performance of “Praying,” which represents her return to the industry after a long battle with music producer Dr. Luke over sexual abuse allegations, was one of the most powerful moments of the night. Monae introduced the singer with a memorable speech, during which she spoke of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up initiative, which offers legal support to those dealing with sexual harassment or assault.
“Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist, but a young woman with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry: artists, writers, assistants, publicists, CEOs, producers, engineers and women from all sectors of the business,” Monae said. “We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters and human beings. We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s up.”
Clinton participated in a prerecorded skit that mocked President Trump by having celebrities read aloud from Michael Wolff’s explosive new book, “Fire and Fury.” Host James Corden mentioned that a number of politicians have won Grammys for best spoken word album and then said to the audience, “We know that our current president does love winning awards, and the good news for him is he may just be the subject of next year’s winner. The question I’ve got is: Who will be the narrator?”
John Legend, Cher, Snoop Dogg, Cardi B and DJ Khaled took turns reading from the book, pausing to comment along the way. (“This is how he lives his life?” Cardi B asked.) When Clinton’s time came around, she read, “He had a longtime fear of being poisoned. One reason why he likes to eat at McDonald’s. Nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely pre-made.” Corden deemed Clinton the winner, to which she replied, “The Grammy is in the bag?” He confirmed that it was.
Before introducing U2, who performed on an outdoor stage in front of the Statue of Liberty, Cabello shared her own message of acceptance. The singer, known for her hit single “Havana,” described the United States as a country “built by dreamers, for dreamers, chasing the American Dream.”
She compared her journey to that of her parents, who “brought me to this country with nothing in their pockets but hope,” she said, adding, “I’m a proud Cuban-Mexican immigrant born in Eastern Havana, standing in front of you on the Grammy stage in New York City. And all I know is, just like dreams, these kids can’t be forgotten and are worth fighting for.”
After performing “1-800-273-8255” with Alessia Cara and Khalid, while joined on stage by a group of suicide attempt survivors and family members of victims, the young rapper opted to deliver a broad message on strength and acceptance:
Black is beautiful, hate is ugly. Women are as precious as they are stronger than any man I have ever met. And unto them, I say stand tall and crush all predators under the weight of your heart that is full of the love they will never take away from you. Be not scared to use your voice! Especially in instances like these when you have the opportunity! Stand and fight for those who are not weak, but have yet to discover the strength that the evil of this world has done its best to conceal.
To all the beautiful countries filled with culture, diversity and thousands of years of history: You are beautiful.
And lastly, on behalf of those who fight for equality in a world that is not equal, not just and not ready for the change we are here to bring: I say unto you, bring us your tired, your poor, and any immigrant who seeks refuge. For together we can build not just a better country, but a world that is destined to be united.
The comedian and former New York Giants player took to the stage to introduce Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi’s performance of “Despacito.” Silverman, who travels the country for her Hulu series “I Love You, America,” began by saying that she and Cruz “were presenting for a very important reason: to encourage you all to vote.” Cruz remarked that the statement wasn’t true, to which Silverman replied, “Yeah, no, we’re kidding. We’re totally kidding. Do what you want to do, it’s no big deal. The world is basically over anyway.”