At the Grammys last night, Lorde didn’t perform despite Melodrama being short-listed for Album of the Year. This was because, unlike every male nominee, she wasn’t invited to perform solo. Of course.
“These shows are always a matter of choices, and we know we have a box and the box gets full and filled up,” Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich told reporters. “She had a great album, album of the year is a big honour, but there’s no way we can really deal with everybody. Sometimes people get left out that shouldn’t, but on the other hand, we did the best we can to make sure that it’s a representative and balanced show.”
I mean, for fuck’s sake. “A matter of choices.” “Deal with everybody.” “Sometimes people get left out.” Truly, shout-out to Ken Ehrlich for giving the perfect answer to why someone wasn’t invited to a birthday party when the rest of the class was. Congratulations indeed for doing a terrific impression of the scene in Big Little Lies when Madeline and Renata go back and forth about Marybella’s birthday party and the subsequent reactionary trip to Disney on Ice. Let’s see what Recording Academy President Neil Portnow had to say about women “stepping up” in the music industry. As if it’s been on us this whole time.
“I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level to step up,” he said. “Because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kind of brick walls that you face, but I think it’s really a combination — it’s us as an industry making that welcome mat very obvious, creating mentorships, creating opportunities not only for women but for all people who want to be creative and really paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists who feel like they can do and say anything.”
Yeah, okay, sure! Because let’s be real: nothing says “obvious-ass welcome mat” like 9% of all nominees over the last six years being women (a point that Lorde’s mother, Sonja Yelich, brought to attention on Twitter). YOU’RE WELCOME, LADIES. (Especially to join a collective onstage instead of performing alone despite being the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, Lorde.) But please enjoy Bono performing twice in a single show.
[Lorde, meanwhile, who attended the Awards but didn’t perform, held a silent protest by way of including a statement by the artist Jenny Holzer sewn into her gown. The words, from Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essay,” read: “Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom.”]
Here’s the thing: it’s lazy to put the onus of inclusion on those who’ve been excluded. “All you have to do is ask!” is a bullshit response reserved for moments in which you’ve been called out on your refusal to do anything at all. Especially if coming from two of the most powerful men in music — and especially when one of those men acknowledges that he’s never faced “those kinds of brick walls.” Which also means he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.
So maybe it’s time for the Grammy heads to ask why it is no one’s been “stepping up” in a way that they recognize. Maybe it’s time they looked at and recognized the parts they’ve played in sending the message that there is a very specific type of artist who’ll have a performance spot guaranteed. Maybe it’s time they looked at the climate they’ve created, spurred on by a massive power imbalance in terms of nominations, of performance, of award wins. And then what message that sends. Because I’ll tell you what: it’s hard to step up when the staircase is sitting behind a cement wall. A wall, I should add, that’s suddenly become a woman’s responsibility to dismantle. As if we don’t have enough to worry about already.