Did The Grammys Just Win the Awards Shows War?

Laura J. Burns
Laura J. Burns writes books, writes for TV, and sometimes writes TV based on books and books based on TV. She will never, however, write a poem. She’s the managing editor of The Antagonist.

We weren’t even planning to properly watch The Grammy Awards at my house. It’s one of those shows that’s usually turned off halfway through, if not forgotten about completely. The Grammys are just too sprawling, covering every possible genre of music–or rather, trying to and failing miserably. Somehow, while attempting to include everything from musical theater to audio books to classical to rap, it seems like the same people are nominated for all the big awards. And all the big awards seem like the same thing? Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year? The Grammys brought Meryl Streep out last night to riff on this and we were still confused about which was which.

Meanwhile, in spite of trying to cover every category of music in existence, the Grammys are consistently accused of failing to be inclusive, and failing to adequately recognize Black artists in particular. This show has a lot of baggage, that’s what I’m saying. So I put it on last night and figured it would be background music in case any of the performances were interesting.

Instead the whole thing was interesting.

I’ve written about the disastrous Golden Globes, the awards show that kicked off this year. It set the tone for an awards season filled with the same nasty misogyny women have come to expect from the post-2016 world. The kind, frankly, that was there all along but just feels more flagrant and obnoxious now. That was followed by a slate of Oscar nominations that snubbed the director and star–both women–of the biggest film of the year, and the predictable sexist backlash to the backlash of that announcement.

Into this ugly cultural moment stepped The Grammy Awards. There was no cringeworthy theme like “women’s empowerment” and host Trevor Noah didn’t say anything about girl power or strong women or the year of the woman. He just enthusiastically introduced the famous people who were in attendance, told jokes that were complimentary about them instead of trying to roast them, and kept the energy up. Other hosts should try it. And then, organically, the Grammys became a night celebrating women.

Did a man win any of the televised awards? I don’t remember any, although Jay-Z received the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award. Women cleaned up, dominating the nominations and winning everything. Miley Cyrus took home her first and second Grammys, changed her outfits a lot, and celebrated her win on stage during her performance. I take issue with her big ’80s hair, having lived through the original era and remembering how long it took to shower out that amount of hair spray, but otherwise she was an absolute delight.

Victoria Monét won for Best New Artist and talked about how long it takes to become a “new” artist, which is a story I always love to hear. That kind of dedication is what it actually takes to succeed in any kind of creative pursuit.

SZA, the most nominated, almost missed her award for Best R&B Song because she was “changing, and then…took a shot” which automatically makes her relatable. She’s both talented and adorable, and getting off stage because “I’m not an attractive crier” is the best reason I’ve ever heard.

And Taylor won twice. The first time she used her 13th win to announce a brand new album–a swerve from the big announcement her fans were expecting upon her winning the (apparently very meaningful) number 13.

@ijustthinkurcool_

the way you cabt even hear taylor @Taylor Swift @Taylor Nation

♬ original sound – catherine🪩
Shout out to the guy covering his ears

And the second time, Taylor Swift made history by winning a fourth Best Album award. That’s right, she’s now officially more successful than Frank Sinatra. And she didn’t even mention her boyfriend once. Suck it, manbabies.

But the real reason the Grammys was such a feminine balm was the performances. (I’m a Gen X, so I’ll be talking about the old ladies here, but go watch SZA, Dua Lipa, and Olivia Rodrigo’s bloodsoaked performance.) Tracy Chapman appeared to sing her masterpiece “Fast Car” along with Luke Combs, whose cover was a hit this year. She hasn’t performed in a long time, but she hasn’t lost a step. Her beautiful smile, her beautiful voice, her heartbreaking song, as resonant today as it was back in 1988, all combined to bring everyone watching to tears. Including Luke Combs.

Then there was Annie Lennox, singing in honor of Sinead O’Connor during the memorial segment. Taking the stage with Wendy & Lisa, Lennox gave a haunting rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and ended with her fist in the air calling for ceasefire. Hard to imagine that O’Connor would have wanted anything else.

And finally, the legendary Joni Mitchell sang at the Grammys for the very first time, which…what? How is that possible? Mitchell is 80 years old and has been recovering from a brain aneurism she suffered in 2015. And she sat on that stage, at her age and with her challenges, and brought the house down. Her voice is powerful and peaceful and the lyrics of “Both Sides Now” hit very differently when sung by a woman with the wisdom of age.

In the end, The Grammy Awards was a lovely, happy show to watch. Jay-Z complained on stage that they need to do better, and he’s right, and it still didn’t change the fact that the evening was just plain nice. Maybe we should end awards season here.

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