Surprise! The Grammys offered up a performance that nobody expected.
No, it wasn’t a last-minute Ariana Grande appearance. Instead, it was a group of leading ladies who gave words of encouragement to anyone who’s ever turned to music to get them through tough times (sound familiar?). During tonight’s show, host Alicia Keys brought Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez, and Michelle Obama onstage to speak on their various backgrounds and how being different isn’t a hindrance, it’s one of the things that sparks creativity. It was exactly what the show needed to get away from last year’s controversial remarks from Recording Academy president Neil Portnow.
“They said I was weird. That my look, my choices, that my sound wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them,” Gaga said during her turn at the mic. “Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice, and my soul. And it led me to all of you and my little monsters, who I love so much.”
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“Music gave me a reason to dance,” Lopez added. “It kept me moving from the block to the big stages and even bigger screens. It reminds me of where I come from, but it also reminds me of all the places I can go. Music has always been the one place we can all feel truly free.”
Obama echoed their sentiments, telling the audience that every voice matters, especially when those voices invite others to share their stories.
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“From the Southside to the ‘who run the world’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story. And I know that’s true for everybody here,” Obama continued. “Music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrow, our hopes and joys. It helps us to hear one another, to invite each other in. Music shows us that all of it matters, every story within every voice, every note in every song.”
The group’s strong message goes against last year’s statement from Portnow, who said that women needed to “step up” to reach the same levels of success as their male counterparts. Last year, only one solo female artist received an award in any major category: Alessia Cara for Best New Artist.
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“It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow said. “I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.” He later apologized.
Others involved in the show declined to comment on Portnow’s statement. The show’s producer, Ken Erlich — also this year’s producer — said that it wasn’t up to him to choose the talent when he was asked why Lorde wasn’t asked to perform.
We’re glad the women were able to take back the stage this year.
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