At the 2018 Golden Globes Awards on Sunday night, attendees wore black as an expression of solidarity with the #MeToo movement and as a sign of protest against sexual misconduct and abuse in the entertainment industry. What started as a small gesture of defiance against a toxic status quo became the theme of the night. Oprah gave the speech of the century on the topic; Natalie Portman introduced the Best Director category with an appropriately snide “all male-nominees” qualifier; most nominees actually wore black, the men too, although none of them addressed the issue of sexual assault head-on in their acceptance speeches. After the allegations of rape and harassment leveled against Harvey Weinstein in October last year inspired a ripple effect of allegations that continues today, it seems only appropriate that one of Hollywood’s most publicized events would look like a funeral. The question becomes: Will the music industry follow suit? The 2018 Grammy Awards are right around the corner—will anyone speak up?
It’s no understatement: The music industry is and has always been plagued by sexual harassment and assault. But unlike Hollywood, we’re not doing much about it. At the time of writing this, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has been accused of rape and sexual misconduct by at least 12 women, enough to open a NYPD investigation. Managers, publicists, magazine heads, musicians of all genres and statures (and genders too) face allegations of abuse. There hasn’t been a Harvey Weinstein in our industry—there have been many, and they continue to succeed in unjustly forgiving spaces, largely unaffected by their abuses (Chris Brown and R. Kelly, we’re looking at you).
There are only two weeks until the 2018 Grammys—they air Sunday, January 28 from 7:30–11 p.m. ET and 4:30–8 p.m. PT on CBS—and nothing has been reported on the topic of sexual assault at the Grammys, and how or even if sexual assault will be addressed at the event. It will be interesting to see if any stars use their red carpet time to discuss how the #MeToo movement extends to the music industry, but without the feeling of solidarity—in something as simple as black garment—there’s little impedance to do so. It feels like other issues may take precedence, if anything of real weight is touched upon at all.
Music, too, like other corners of the entertainment industry, is guilty of complicit behaviors. Justin Timberlake, for example, wore black on the Golden Globes’ red carpet but recently worked with famed filmmaker Woody Allen, whose allegations of abuse are well-documented.
This year at the Grammys, Kendrick Lamar has the second-most nominations, seven behind Jay-Z’s eight, for his landmark album DAMN. He’s critically celebrated for his progressive, political music, and rightfully so: He speaks injustices in a way that makes them unable to be ignored to even those most oppositional to truth. But Lamar has voiced his support of young rapper XXXTentacion, who faces a series of domestic violence charges including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness-tampering.
Jay-Z, who may finally be recognized by the Grammys this year for his legacy and is assumed to win big, once had a working relationship with Harvey Weinstein. He’s yet to speak out publicly about the music mogul, even though Weinstein made up a song lyric and falsely attributed it to Jay-Z in a public statement/supposed apology following the allegations against him.
Perhaps Jay will say something about sexual harassment at the Grammys, but it’s more likely that he will use his well-deserved moment of recognition for, well, himself, or other causes he is vocal about—like that of the racist criminal justice system in this country. There are other nominees who should inspire some hope: Lorde is up for Album of the Year, and she’s been vocal about intersectional feminism and more recently, these abuses, at least in some form of solidarity on Twitter. Kesha is up for Pop Vocal Album of the Year, and it would be wonderful to see her continue to use her platform to highlight just how common and fucked up sexual misconduct is—especially after her many years of abuse at the hands of Dr. Luke.
This may read extremely doom and gloom-y, but make no mistake: If Hollywood can make meaningful change (or, at least, make a gesture towards meaningful change), then the music industry can follow suit. It’s up to us to hold those in power accountable, to listen to victims, to believe their stories. And hopefully someone—anyone—at the Grammys will recognize the power in their platform and do the same.