One of the most anticipated Grammy performances this year was Kesha’s “Praying.” Written after her years-long legal battle with accused abuser Dr. Luke, the song has become an anthem of sorts, and has perfectly coincided with the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. And seeing as how the music industry’s response to #TimesUp has been much more tenuous than Hollywood’s, the burden to address the enormous issue largely fell to Kesha. Aside from one literal whisper from Lady Gaga, there was no mention of #TimesUp until her segment.
She delivered a powerful performance, but then the Grammys moved on. What’s more, they paired the moment with another bit on immigration, giving the clear signal that they were trying to squeeze all of the uncomfortable “political” moments into one tidy package.
Still, the Kesha segment packed a punch. Janelle Monae introduced the performance, honoring women in the music industry, and giving something of a warning. “We come in peace, but we mean business. To those who would dare try to silence us, we offer two words: Time’s up,” she said.
Kesha then took to the stage along with Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, Andra Day, and the Resistance Revival Chorus, all of whom were dressed in white. The performance was incredibly moving, and the exact kind of statement that the industry needs. But it shouldn’t have been the only statement.
Nonetheless, Kesha’s performance was commanding and hopefully will serve as something more than a way for the label that contractually bound her to her abuser—and the industry that largely turned a blind eye—to refurbish their image.
A speech from Camila Cabello on behalf of DACA recipients then followed. It too was powerful. But it led, bafflingly, to a song by U2. Seriously, they couldn’t find a Latinx artist to do a song about immigration in this moment? They had to pick old white men?
When it was all done, you could feel the Grammys saying, “happy now?” It was telling that the next majorly political moment to happen on the show—Logic’s monologue towards the end—was apparently off-script.