To their credit, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences didn’t give Black people any pretense that the show wasn’t going to piss a bunch of us off. All but one of the hip hop and R&B categories were given before the telecast began, and for the most part, the winners in each category elicited some variation of “hell no” as a response. Based on the majority of the winners, many of them won for not necessarily being the best in their category but, rather, for being the Black name that old White men best recognized.
For example, you seem like a doll, Alicia Keys, but there’s a reason why Girl On Fire is your lowest selling album to date. Likewise, I love Rihanna like she loves a Swisher Sweet, but her winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” aka “Best Of Those New Blacks” over Tamar Braxton, Mack Wilds, Fantasia, and Salaam Remi seemed wrong. Is there no safe place for any straight up R&B artist?
No, unless you’re Justin Timberlake, who conveniently picked up an R&B Award (Best R&B Song, “Pusher Love Girl”) while also scoring a nod for “Suit & Tie” in a pop category. Now, if any Black act sang that same song, it’d be relegated to the Best Traditional R&B category (which went to Gary Clark, Jr.’s “Please Come Home.” Congrats to him and to Lalah Hathaway, who took Best R&B Performance for Snarky Puppy’s “Something.”)
Speaking of things that don’t belong, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took every rap category (Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance), minus the one award that went to Jay Z (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, with Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail”), plus Best New Artist
Now, much of the online commentary about Macklemore’s essential sweep was, “You already know how it is, so why are you acting surprised?” You know, I’m never surprised when it rains, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be bothered if I get too wet going outside.
For some of you “awards don’t matter,” but to many others they do which is why it can be both unsurprising and yet still glaringly offensive to see Macklemore best Kendrick Lamar in rap categories.
For the record, no, it’s not Macklemore’s fault that he benefits from White privilege, and yes, he’s a peach for acknowledging he has it. Nonetheless, if people want to complain about a so-so spoken word artist posing as a rapper getting major awards for a mediocre product in comparison to a much better emcee, so be it. No one, especially not a Black person, needs to toss on a cap and rush to defend Macklemore.
Never forget: He is a White man. Not only that, a White man doing a Black art form. No thinkpiece formed against him shall prosper.
As for the Grammys overall: insert your big yawn here. This show was geared more so towards White men over the age of 50 who are heavily into rock and country music acts past their prime. For those folks, last night’s award show probably turned that cherry out. When it comes to the rest of us, we had far less highlights.
Among them was Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performance of “Drunk in Love.” To be honest, while it was one of the better performances of the night, Beyoncé herself has done much, much better in other settings. One assumes her and her husband’s thought process going in was, “You raggedy, Kendrick Lamar-snubbing folks are even lucky we bothered to grace y’all with our presence.” If so, right on, girl, and shout out to you for throwing up Third Ward on stage and sipping on brown liquor in the front row of the show. Your Black is beautiful.
Pink: Alas, like Ciara had the matrix, she has spinning in the air like a Ringling Sister. Yes, it’s impressive, but she does this bit a lot. Oh well.
See you next flip.
Taylor Swift: Many of you hate her, but her offbeat bop to “Drunk in Love” and Kendrick Lamar’s set was fun to watch.
Read the rest at EBONY.