Why Left and Right love to fight about the Grammys
The music ceremony is a culture war favourite
Once able to reliably deliver viewing audiences in excess of 20 million, the Grammy Awards — which staged its 65th iteration on Sunday — now draws half of that. However, thanks to ever-rising political polarisation, the ceremony can be counted on to generate inane political controversy that will occupy at least one news cycle and perhaps more.
Such was the case when Sam Smith — now far less svelte than the nonbinary performer was scant years earlier — took to the stage wearing a hideously ugly top hat with horns to perform alongside trans pop musician Kim Petras, who was inside a cage. Together, Smith, Petras, and an array of dancers in red outfits and black wigs listlessly went through the motions of their duet ‘Unholy’. It was a joyless and rote performance, ostensibly intended to hark back to an era when pop stars could actually provoke controversy, such as when Australian singer Helen Reddy shocked Grammy viewers in 1973 by referring to God as a “she” or Annie Lennox showed up wearing a suit and mutton chops for her performance of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” in 1984.
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In response, Right-wing figures rushed to Twitter to denounce this set in a similarly rote, uninspired manner. “Demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan,” tweeted conservative influencer Liz Wheeler. “This…is…evil,” added Texas senator Ted Cruz by way of quote-tweet. Of course, this was nothing new — a year earlier, in a similarly tedious performance, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion simulated a girl-on-girl sex scene while performing ‘WAP’, which in turn prompted Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson to devote five minutes to exploring how it exemplified the sort of “corrosion” evident at the “end of empire” (Hasbro’s decision to drop the ‘Mr.’ honorific from their signature ‘Potato Head’ toy also figured into this portentous discussion, as did Quaker Oats’s decision to move on from offensive corporate syrup mascot ‘Aunt Jemima’).
There is an ouroboric quality to this kind of discourse. Petras remarked after the show that she had intended to shock religious Christians, given that they’re not accepting of her lifestyle, and that mission was clearly accomplished. A year earlier, Cardi B had tweeted excitedly “WE MADE FOX NEWS GUYS!!! Wap wap wap” when Carlson and Owens’s conversation about her aired. In each instance, the Grammys — now a wholly segmented audience that draws mainly Left-leaning viewers rather than a unifying cultural event of modest annual significance — gave both sides what they wanted: the Left-wing performers could claim that their uninspired, cookie-cutter material had shocked the squares and Moral-Majority types, while outraged Right-wing spokespeople could assert that paedophilic Satanism was indeed deeply embedded among the liberal elites of “Hollyweird”.
In a slightly different form, this lame material drove a great deal of music-related cultural discourse in the 1980s. Right-wing figures fanned the flames of a full-on “Satanic panic” while fulminating about Satanic references and imagery in music, while Left and libertarian musicians drew additional attention to their records by incorporating more of the same. After passing through a period when most Right-wing and even Liberal cultural criticism of pop music dealt with excessive sex or violence, it is fascinating to watch the Satanic angle recur, as when manosphere influencer Mike Cernovich takes to Twitter to assert that heavy metal music “opens demonic portals via a spirit of fear” and has “stopped listening to hip hop and most secular music”.
These days, cultural common ground in the United States is so uncommon that one finds it primarily in those areas where people have gathered to shout their disdain for each other.
The opinions of some actual musicians:
“”I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.” Eddie Vedder, on receiving a Grammy
“Why don’t the Grammys matter? Because it feels rigged and cheap — like a popularity contest that the insiders club has decided”
“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”
“the Grammys represent something outside of the real world of music “that’s fully industry based”.
“Everyone should go home, this is ridiculous. You should not be doing this. We should not be gathering in a big room and looking at each other and pretending that this is important.”
the old Dan McLean song
”’Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin”’
Really Satan owns the entertainment Industry – does not even hide anymore, the industry has so become in thrall to evil,,,,,
Brain-dead rubbish. The Grammys are a reliable indicator of the kind of strutting middle class popsters whose outputs should be avoided at all costs. Popular music now is in a worse state than before punk.
“Petras remarked after the show that she had intended to shock religious Christians, given that they’re not accepting of her lifestyle, and that mission was clearly accomplished.”
Aww – bless him!
What she should have said was, “I am a coward really but I want to make out that I’m dead edgy and shocking and well, let’s face it no one cares about Christians….I mean, I wouldn’t dare to try and shock anyone from any other religion even if they don’t accept my lifestyle. No way would I offend them because they might come after me and not turn the other cheek.”
Yes, why wouldn’t they attempt to shock a Muslim, who would throw them off a building? How courageous!
Does anyone reading Unherd care about this?
Some of the religious nutters who congregate on the comments section clearly do.
I did not read the article, but I are greatly that society is sick and evil….
It’s not sick and evil though is it. Most people are thoroughly decent and just get on with their lives and ignore all this nonsense the same way they have for decades. There’s always been attention seekers and always will be, it’s just now social media coupled with lazy journalism means they get more attention than they deserve
but I are greatly that society is sick
What does this even mean?
Think maybe he meant to say *care* greatly that society is sick which is very much the case and and difficult to argue with and yet here you doing so -repeatedly
If if wasn’t for the controversy, hardly anyone would have known The Grammys happened. Give it a few more years and people will be going, “oh the Oscars happened last week?”
From Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in three generations. That must be the fastest civilisational decline in history.
I’ve noticed a sea change in the attitudes of celebrities. Where once they used to cavort around their stages sticking it to the establishment, they now have become the very mouthpieces for the establishment.
It’s like listening to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5zQTmkY7GI
but in drag.
Not a good indication the article will be balanced when the author uses the term “nonbinary” without putting it in quotes.
I didn’t watch it and I’d bet not many others did either. Most of their ‘music’ is tiresome schlock.
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