New York, 29 January: Among the many big moments of the Grammy Awards 2018 was Kesha’s performance of her song ‘Praying,’ along with Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Andra Day, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha, all dressed in white. LA Times reports that she “pushed her voice to breaking point,” in feeling the song and the movement it stood in solidarity for — #Time’sUp, going beyond white roses and lapel pins on the red carpet.
Kesha, who has been struggling to get out of a contract with her producer Lukasz Gottwald (“Dr. Luke”), was emotional after the her performance of the hit comeback song, seen as a rejoinder to the producer. She had accused him of “sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, unfair business practices, and infliction of emotional distress,” in 2014 and was denied a court injunction that would have allowed her to record new music outside her contract with Sony and Kemosabe Records, according to an article by Vox.
According to Rolling Stone, Dr. Luke was let go from Kemosabe, and Kesha released her first album Rainbow after five years.
The performance was introduced by Camila Cabello, who said, “We come in peace, but we mean business … And to those who dare try to silence up, we offer you two words: Time’s Up. We say Time’s Up for pay inequality, discrimination or harassment of any kind, and Time’s Up for the abuse of power.”
However, this may have been a cursory obligation by the organisers towards the movement, who according to Independent, tend to ‘draw attention to issues’ while simultaneously ‘not wanting to make the night about the issues.’ There hasn’t been an as impactful reckoning in the music industry as in Hollywood about sexual harassment, with not many pop music A-listers being very vocal in their support, and the number of pop music figures being accused of sexual misconduct falling to a fraction of the numbers in the film and TV entertainment industry. A USA Today article speaks about the reasons for this, starting from ‘conceptions of stardom that are sexualised from the outset.’
Unlike the Golden Globes, where the attendees were asked to wear black, a white rose seemed to be too small a token of solidarity. Another LA Times article speaks about how for the first two hours there was no mention, filled instead with “the usual fare of booty-shaking performances, sleepy ballads and sleepier acceptance speeches.”
Apart from this #GrammySoMale was trending on Twitter, after only one of the nine main prizes of the night was won by a woman. According to Variety, When the Recording Academy President, Neil Portnow, was asked about this, he said, ““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. 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.” Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich was evasive, and said, “It’s not for me to talk about…I produce the TV show.”
— Phil Buck (@Phil_Buck) January 28, 2018
— Jason Ikeler (@jasonikeler) January 29, 2018
— Christine Lahti (@ChristineALahti) January 29, 2018
A University of Southern California study titled ‘Inclusion in the Recording Studio?’ released this month claimed that women made up only nine percent of the Grammy nominees from 2013 to 2018, and 90.7 percent were male. Further, only 12.3 percent of the songwriters of the 600 popular songs in the last six years were women. And only 2 percent of the producers across 300 songs were women, even though female pop singers like Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyonce might be well-represented. Last year only 16.8 percent of women were among the list of top charting musicians.
With inputs from agencies, compiled by Eisha Nair