Why Lorde Is At The Center Of #GrammysSoMale, Despite Not Saying Or Singing A Word

"The apocalypse will blossom."

Lorde may have only gone into Grammy night with one nomination, but at least it was the big one: Album of the Year for 2017's Melodrama. The male-dominated night, which saw music industry folks wearing white roses in solidarity for the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, turned out to be a chance for the 21-year-old New Zealander to speak out in a major way.


In lieu of donning the flowers like many others, Lorde sewed an excerpt of an essay to the back of her red dress — which had a matching flask, to boot — and skipped the red carpet tradition. The words are from Jenny Holzer's Inflammatory Essays, a series of 31 writings created between 1977 and 1982. The words, which are perfect for today's trying times, pack quite the punch. 

"Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors," the post reads. "The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom."

This was indisputably a powerful move by Lorde — who recently put a unique twist on Carly Rae Jepsen's "Run Away With Me" — and it made us want to see more of her during the show. Too bad she was the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, and was also the only nominee in that category who wasn't asked to perform solo. We did get performances by solo female artists — such as Lady Gaga, SZA, Pink, and Kesha (who did bring out other women to bring down the house) — but it was Lorde who was notably missing.

According to Variety, Lorde's fellow crop of nominees in the top category — Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars (who ultimately won) — were asked to perform tracks from their nominated albums. Jay-Z turned down the honor while the others agreed. Lorde was allegedly asked to perform as part of a tribute to Tom Petty, which would have had her singing "American Girl." She reportedly declined the offer and, instead, didn't take to the stage at all.

Lorde's mom, Sonja Yelich, took to Twitter recently to share some cryptic facts and figures from a New York Times story that make a whole lot more sense knowing the backstory here. The story is about the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California's recent report analyzing the representation — or lack thereof, as it turns out — of women in the music industry and also mentioning the fact that Lorde would not be performing on the big night.

This was just one instance that inspired the #GrammysSoMale hashtag. While there were women who had the spotlight to perform, there were many more men who got the chance — and, at that, ones that weren't even nominated. And, in the end, there was only one woman who received an award during the Grammys live broadcast. That honor went to Alessia Cara, who won for Best New Artist. Furthermore, only 11 of the 84 total awards went solely to women.

This was most evident in the Best Pop Solo Performance category, in which Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" beat out strong contenders by female artists. Also nominated for this award were Kelly Clarkson's "Love So Soft," Gaga's "Million Reasons," Kesha's "Praying," and Pink's "What About Us." Four women with anthems that featured themes of girl power, healing from heartbreak, love, overcoming adversity, and coming together were beaten out by the only man in the category whose song was about admiring not a female human but just the outline of one.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow comments only made matters worse, telling Variety that women should "step up."

"It has to begin with … women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level … [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome," he said. "I don't have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it's upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists."

Portnow went on to defend the show's performance lineup after Lorde was brought up, saying "we have a wealth of riches every year and it's hard to have a balanced show and have everybody involved," and adding that "we can't have a performance from every nominee." This may all be true, that having a performance from every nominee would be impossible, but it doesn't address the fact that some of the performances were from those who didn't have a nomination.

Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich seemed to think that things would have been different if Taylor Swift had been there or nominated or won a trophy for reputation (which was ineligible this year), a problematic thought to say the least. We cannot put all of our hope on Swift — or any one woman, for that matter. Change needs to be made from within and it has to be inclusive of all women, not just the Taylor Swifts of the world.

So, on a night that — on the surface at least — set out to honor women, the Grammys didn't quite measure up and give us the real change we needed to see. When given the spotlight, women rose up to shine a light on important issues in their industry and many other industries. In the end, they cannot — or should not have to — carry this torch alone. They don't need to "stand up," they've already been standing. It's more than awards, it's about opportunity.

(H/T: Rolling Stone)


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