The 62nd annual Grammy Awards kicked off yet another year of music honors and showbiz controversy. Just ten days before the very long and contentious ceremony, the Recording Academy ousted their first woman leader, then-CEO Deborah Dugan, following her allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and rigged voting procedures within the organization. The weight of such allegations was heavy on the show itself, with host and singer-songwriter Alicia Keys’ vaguely remarking “it’s been a hell of a week.”
With the Grammys carrying the history of stuffy performances and old, white honorees, the Grammys had to deliver what the people wanted—or risk being just another award show labeled “irrelevant.” Did it succeed?
In spite of a history of men dominating the top categories, 18-year-old newcomer Billie Eilish completely swept the biggest awards. On Sunday, Eilish not only became the youngest artist to take home the coveted Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year awards—she also became the first woman to do it. Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Tyler the Creator also snagged a set of awards and were among some of the most interesting and energetic performances of the night (we live every time Lizzo brings out her flute. PERIOD)!
Tyler the Creator took home Best Rap Album for his genre-bending album “Igor,” but made a poignant point about the way in which the Grammys recognizes music by Black artists. “On the one side I am very grateful that what I made can be acknowledged in a world like this… but it sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category.”
The Grammys also had some hits-and-misses when it came to highlighting Alternative female performers. Rosalía brought flamenco to the Grammys scene, and deservedly took home Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album. Earlier that evening, Usher and avant-garde musician/dancer FKA Twigs were introduced to perform a Prince tribute—but Usher was the only one to sing. With audiences questioning why FKA Twigs never took to the mic (only dancing on stage), FKA Twigs tweeted that she was never asked to.
The awards also made the strange and untimely decision to have pop singers like Camilla Cabello and Cyndi Lauper perform “Body Electric” as a tribute to producer Ken Ehrlich—who had a public feud with Ariana Grande and is mentioned in Deborah Dugan’s allegations.
Prior to Dugan’s “administrative leave,” she was brought on as chief to the Recording Academy following her predecessor, Neil Portnow’s, poor response to the system’s gender inequality (famously stating that “women need to step up”). In an effort to diversify the academy, Dugan was in leadership when the organization would be assisted by the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, helmed by Time’s Up founder Tina Tchen. In Dugan’s report, she claims that the academy was reluctant to accept new diversity initiatives and still upheld biased and toxic power structures.
During the show, Alicia Keys had a message for the industry: “It’s time for newness. And we refuse the negative energy. We refuse the old systems.” It seems we’re still waiting for that change.
Take Action! Let us know what you thought about the Grammys 2020. Did you see any progress towards representation and gender equality?