Looks like the Grammys are scrambling to address sexual misconduct in the music industry.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Kesha will lead a powerful performance of her 2017 single, “Praying,” joined by “Havana” singer Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Best New Artist nominee Julia Michaels, and ascendant R&B star Andra Day. “Praying” is Kesha’s chilling comeback ballad, one not so secretly squared at Dr. Luke, the producer she’s accused of persistent physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and is still embroiled with in a legal battle. It seems like a natural choice, and I’m confident Kesha will get it right—let’s just hope the Grammys do her, and survivors everywhere, justice. I’m concerned they won’t?
Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich told the Times that it won’t “specifically” address the #MeToo movement, but given the subject matter of Kesha’s “Praying,” he thinks the subtext will be clear. “Even though her story goes back several years,” Ehrlich said, “the reality of what happened over the last four or five months will put a different spin on the way people will view it.”
The 2018 Grammys host and karaoke maniac James Corden, for one, is expecting the performance to be affecting, telling the Associated Press, “I think it’s going to be a moving moment.” He also plans to wear a white rose in solidarity, as part of the extremely last-minute effort led by Roc Nation senior VP Meg Harkins and Interscrope/Geffen/A&M Records’ Karen Rait to acknowledge sexual assault in the music industry. (The move started on Monday when both women realized there were no other plans for the awards to address the issue). It’s akin to attendees wearing black at the Golden Globes, but just with like, three fewer weeks to prepare.
It’s safe to say Grammy organizers aren’t really sure how to handle a problem that hasn’t exactly pounded on the door of the music industry like it has other branches of Hollywood. Recording Academy President Neil Portnow told the AP that wearing a rose would be “a decision that I need to know a little more about,” adding, “From what I heard about it, I think it’s a wonderful expression that we, as a society, need to be working on and dealing with.” Ehrlich took a very “leave it up to the states” approach, by basically saying it’s on the artists to decide:
“We’re aware of it and we’re certainly supportive of the movement, but the reality is we’re more concerned with allowing artists that we work with to express themselves and have artistic freedom. If, in fact, that’s part of that, then that’s something we support.”
The Grammys’ noncommittal, last-ditch efforts feel like a token gesture, a college senior cramming before a final, a hole punch, just to fulfill an obligation before Corden carpools his way around Madison Square Garden. Kesha performing one of the most gutting singles of 2017 will be a moving moment, for certain. But it’s hard to shake that it’s just too little too late.