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Tucker's angry, Music shapes politics & Backstage at The Grammys!
What Tucker missed... plus pics
Hi, Ari here, My new piece below is about The Grammys - with pics!
And welcome to those who just joined my newsletter, you can read the new entry below. For access to all entries and to join my annual zoom call, you can sign up to be a full subscriber here - and thanks for your interest.
Music First (politics below…)
The Grammys, like The Oscars and other awards shows, are an odd prism for celebrating culture. They invoke a “sports”-style competition for the arts, with none of sports’ precision. A race can actually determine who ran fastest. A trophy doesn’t tell you who has the “best” song — and the artists are often the first to say so.
Then there’s the judging and the bias, with the voting bodies often reinforcing discrimination and power dynamics in society at large — even within artistic fields that are especially diverse!
That’s one reason that awards shows, which seek to “judge” their fields, often find themselves judged for their own issues/bias/ethics. Then the shows risk becoming more about a reflection of their power brokers — the tribalism, Hollywood insularity — than a legitimate referendum on the year in arts. (The Golden Globes were recently suspended for a year, in that vein.)
And yet! The shows still matter.
Millions watch, a large swath of top artists come, and it is often the only night of the year when we see these artists together.
Last weekend, I attended the Grammys in LA for the first time. As a music fan, it was an amazing treat. The sheer breadth was striking — Bonnie Raitt, Alice Cooper, Madonna, Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Jay-Z all packed into a few tables.
I attended the ceremony with Kevin Liles, the pioneering music executive (and Beat guest), and my older brother.
It happened to be a particularly good year to go — from Beyonce breaking the all-time record for most Grammys, to the ceremony celebrating 50 years of hip-hop, a genre the show has overlooked for most of its history. (In his book, Jay-Z writes about the early days when the Grammys refused to televise any of the hip hop awards, but asked him to come perform in the televised portion, and he refused, saying he wouldn’t be a party to disappearing his own art.)
So this year felt a little different, especially if you know the history.
Party On, Clive
The awards ceremony is actually a small slice of Grammy weekend. I learned that the fun way… going to music parties for five days straight. Really!
One highlight was the legendary party/concert by music icon Clive Davis. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve obtained and wore my own tux to an event… seen here with my brother:
We ran into Busta Rhymes at the party, and as you can see, my brother was much more excited to be in a picture with him (lol):
Grammy Politics (Tucker)
Music shapes and expands our perception, our ideas, and ultimately society.
Look at many of the “edgy” or “marginalized” voices and ideas celebrated in the counterculture, and you’ll find they often become mainstream in the next generation.
The culture and protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s animated the American left, then conquered the Democratic Party, and now drive “consensus” positions across the mainstream middle and Corporate America (feminism, marriage equality, DEI values, etc). When conservative politicos wage “culture wars,” it’s precisely because they see culture matters; it has power.
Over on Fox News, Sunday’s varied Grammys performances was boiled down to one-note outrage.
Willing to go on the ride
Sam Smith did a provocative, devilish performance with a Grammy-winning transgender artist, Kim Petras, and conservatives attacked, with lines like:
Is it really a good idea to mimic devil worship? … transgender Satanism brought to you by Pfizer! (Tucker Carlson)
That's the most woke place around (Brian Kilmeade)
They full-on embraced Satanism! (Ben Shapiro)
Those attacks miss something important.
At its best, culture is more open-minded than our constant political clashes. The much-celebrated performance finale on Sunday was “God Did,” about the power of belief. (D.J. Khaled says when no one believed in him, God did!). It was performed by several artists in a last supper-style setting - long table, goblets, the meal - steeped in Christian imagery.
That spirit confidently coexisted with the night's “Unholy” performance. How did that happen?
Because art doesn't require you to choose one view, or one taste, let alone issue political endorsements. Art offers a chance to experience, and feel; to be exposed, and then just see where it takes you — if anywhere at all.
The only price of admission… is being willing to go on the ride.
What’s your favorite song or performance of all time? Tell me in the comments and I’ll reply to some..
One more pic - Genres of the world, unite!…