The 2018 Grammys Want to Be Woke

via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Hollering about the Grammys’ diversity problem can feel like running on a hamster wheel. Every year leads to new disappointment, a laundry list of under-recognized work by artists of color in major categories. To their credit, the Grammys seem to be working on it in 2018: The Recording Academy released its second round of performances on Wednesday, and it’s looking like sets by white dudes will be few and far between.

Pop mainstay Bruno Mars and Cardi B will be on hand to perform their perfect new remix of “Finesse”; Puerto Rican superstars Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have been added to the roster, presumably for the inescapable “Despacito”; Kesha and SZA will also perform. The most surprising addition is rapper Logic, Khalid, and Alessia Cara, who will once again take an award show stage with a group of suicide attempt survivors for their radio hit “1-800-273-8255.” They did the exact same thing at the MTV Video Music Awards last year, survivors and all.


Alongside the initial round of performers—which include rapper Childish Gambino, Lady Gaga, P!nk, Little Big Town, Broadway star Patti LuPone, and actor Ben Platt—it reads like the Grammys are taking diversity more seriously than last year in terms of performances. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee make only the sixth Latin performance at the Grammys in 60 years. Kesha will be taking the Grammy stage for the first time—a meaningful platform in the midst of her ongoing legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, who she accused of rape.

Are the Grammys recruiting “Despacito” and “1-800-273-8255" because the Recording Academy deeply cares about inclusion and suicide prevention awareness, or just because they happened to be among the most popular songs of 2017? Are the Grammys only concerned with activism and politically charged message-making when it’s convenient, not when it comes to casting their nomination ballots? We’ll find out on Sunday, January 28 if it’s another superficial gesture, or if the Academy really means it this time.

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