The Grammys’ treatment of Kesha, Lorde, and other women nominees reveals the industry’s true priorities.
“Coming up: a powerful Grammys moment from Kesha that speaks to our times!” the announcer chirped. A couple hours deep into the ceremony, this performance had been promoted all night as The One to Watch — but this tease was the closest the Grammys came to explaining why.
Even if the performance of Kesha’s “Praying” was indeed worth the wait, this moment wasn’t just remarkable for having a wide swath of women singers — from Cyndi Lauper to Camila Cabello — take the stage before burning it down with righteous fury as Kesha’s rasping howl ripped through the arena.
Janelle Monáe tried her best to make the implicit themes of “Praying” explicit when introducing the song. She insisted with steady conviction that “time’s up” for abuse of women in the music industry, but the Grammys weren’t going to make it clear why Kesha, of all people, was such a pointed choice.
Instead, the CBS-produced Grammys held up Kesha’s “powerful” performance as remarkable without acknowledging that Kesha occupies a unique space in the reckoning against sexual violence that’s been ricocheting throughout industries for the past several months. The ceremony remained stubbornly, purposefully vague, because getting any more specific would mean indicting not just the man Kesha says abused her, but the entire system that keeps men like him in power.
Explaining what Kesha’s moment was truly about would mean explaining that Kesha’s moment was about damning the entire system that had failed her and so many other women — a system that the Grammys and music industry at large seem to have little interest in changing.