Open Thread: The 2012 Grammy Awards

By Arturo R. García

The more I think about this year’s Grammy Awards, the harder it becomes to figure them out.


For starters, I can’t imagine what Jennifer Hudson was feeling while singing her take on Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” especially considering she reportedly couldn’t get through the song in rehearsals. But the show’s organizers put Hudson in an awkward position so late in the nearly 150-minute show. The extended build-up seemed too “Hollywood,” but closing the show with a jam session involving Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters only made the awards look dated.

Of course, there’s a difference between being dated and being tone-deaf, and the extended spotlight on Chris Brown – two performances – was a bad exclamation point to executive producer Ken Ehrlich’s statement that the Grammys were “the victim of what happened” regarding his absence from the show for three years. After the show, Grammys president Neil Portnow told HitFlix Brown’s second appearance, during a dance segment, “was not really part of a Chris Brown performance, per se.”

Speaking of bizarre, Sunday also saw an extreme difference in opinion regarding Brown’s return: Sasha Pesulka at HelloGiggles gained traction online with her take on the situation: (Trigger Warning)

We were so mad when the Komen Foundation pulled its funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. “This is not fair,” we shouted. “This is not fair to women, and this is not fair to the women who don’t have a voice, and we will not allow it.” We shouted it so loudly that Komen reversed its decision in three days. We forced the resignation of one of their top executives.

Planned Parenthood, no doubt, has a well-funded and fine-tuned PR machine, adept at galvanizing a population against a perceived injustice. They outmaneuvered Komen easily.

Does domestic violence have a less sophisticated PR machine than Chris Brown does?

Apparently so, because Brown got a standing ovation after his first performance, and referred to himself as a “role model” on Twitter before deleting it. Meanwhile, after the show, BuzzFeed found at least (Trigger Warning) 25 different people who expressed their support for him in the most insensitive of ways.

The awards also struck a bad chord outside the arena – literally. Billboard Magazine reported that about 70 Latino artists and supporters protested the elimination of 31 categories, including Latino Jazz and gospel – the genre Houston got her start in before embarking on her professional career. The advocacy group Presente is also circulating an online petition calling for categories representing Latino, Native American, Cajun and Hawaiian music to be restored.

And there was quite a bit more to unpack this year, including:

  • So, if you get mentioned during the show, you don’t get a spot in the In Memoriam tribute. So the only mentions of Etta James and Don Cornelius were brief.
  • Speaking of Mr. Cornelius, the Foo Fighters and Deadmau5 did a tribute number? Huh?
  • First it was Lady Antebellum. Now we have The Civil Wars. What will next year’s problematic country band be called? The Wars of Northern Aggression? CPAC?
  • Nicki Minaj’s performance.

What did you think of the show, Racializens?

  • Pingback: The Grammys as White Nostalgia? | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • Pingback: GLG Weekly Round-up « girls like giants

  • http://twitter.com/HowlingBusou Howling

    You seem to be working on the assumption that the majority of people know who either of those two are. You may find this to be a bit of brand new information: people don’t know the personal histories of every person involved in the entertainment industry.

  • Alex

    One of different things I was disturbed by was the woman’s crotch in the face of the praying altar boys during Nikki Minaj’s performance.  It made me think of the adults who were sexually abused by Catholic Priests during childhood.

  • Alex

    One of different things I was disturbed by was the woman’s crotch in the face of the praying altar boys during Nikki Minaj’s performance.  It made me think of the adults who were sexually abused by Catholic Priests during childhood.

    • Anonymous

      i thought of that as a statement on the sexual repression expected of catholics.  since women can’t be priests. it made me think about the altar boys i knew in highschool, who had trouble expressing and confusion around sexuality because it was a sin, but they were normal hormonal teenagers who wanted to be sexual so much.

  • dersk

    Yes, that’s exactly and absolutely what I meant by mentioning that NPR is the only place I’ve heard them so far.

  • jjoneluv

    So glad I DIDN’T see all this drama.  My homework kept me busy :)

    • Anonymous

      You should have (if you have one of these) PVR’d it for later. I did, and I’m probably going to see it soon, just to see what all the fuss is about (I usually avoid the Grammy like the plague, but I made an exception this time.)

      One other thing: what do people here think about these Buzz Feed Twitter incidents involving Paul McCartney and  Bon Iver?  Myself, I think that the responses to the kids whose Tweets were quoted in the articles were quite ageist and racist. What does anybody else think?

      • austin

        i’ve thought a lot about the Bon Iver win (as someone who considers himself a fan), and i really can’t get behind it. The Grammy’s have largely been about acknowledging good popular music. When you think about some of the folks who had HUGE mainstream success this year, a lot of the people who actually won don’ match up. I think a lot of artists of color were overlooked, and in general, whoever planned the Grammy’s was out of touch. I mean… three Foo Fighters performances? Two Springstein performances? Two Paul McCartney performances? All very safe, all very white, but not at all current or relevant. 

    • Anonymous

      You should have (if you have one of these) PVR’d it for later. I did, and I’m probably going to see it soon, just to see what all the fuss is about (I usually avoid the Grammy like the plague, but I made an exception this time.)

      One other thing: what do people here think about these Buzz Feed Twitter incidents involving Paul McCartney and  Bon Iver?  Myself, I think that the responses to the kids whose Tweets were quoted in the articles were quite ageist and racist. What does anybody else think?

  • Anonymous

    if i’d just seen nicki minaj’s performance without knowing people found it problematic, i would have read it as a song about a boy possessed by a demon, the demon being nicki minaj.  it seems like a pretty straightforward narrative, and i’m not sure why someone would think it was about mental illness except that demonic possession, were it real, would be mistaken for mental illness, and we’d try to medicate it away.  i realize in real life, this works the other way around (people with mental illnesses are treated by religion as possessed), but since it seemed pretty horror movie trope and not reality based, i wouldn’t have read the performance that way. 

    i actually really liked it, but i am particularly fond of and fascinated by catholic gothic horror tropes.  

    • k.eli

       ”…people with mental illnesses are treated by religion as possessed…”

      Sadly, I have found this to be very true for the most part. I think I would’ve liked the performance a lot better had Nicki tackled that subject in her performance instead of the overly-theatrical exorcism (but I might be giving her way too much credit in the art-as-political-statement department).

  • Alicia

    Well since he was court ordered to do two of the things I said, I beg to differ on your statement of him doing neither.  He has expressed regret.  Do you think that he is happy that he will continually have to have this hanging over his career and future successes?  There are many other artists, athletes, celebrities who have comitted sins just as bad and yet they are not as villified.  Rihanna has even forgiven him and said she wishes him nothing but success.  It seems to me people are hell bent on holding a grudge that is not their own to bear and will not give a young person who made a mistake a chance at redemption. 

    • Medusa

       Him doing things that he was *court* *ordered* to do (your own words) is an example of having changed? What about the racist, sexist bullshit he is still spewing? What about him flipping out about everything? What the fuck do you mean “he can’t help but react”? If he STILL cannot control his actions, then no, he has not done shit to change, and no, he is not deserving of forgiveness. Apologizing isn’t shit. CHANGING is.

  • frank

    It was good to hear Rhianna perform in spite of Brown being there, but I would’ve liked it more if she wasn’t the sexualized object of it.  If she wants to do the sexual thing, I would like to see her be dominant rather than dominated. 

  • frank

    It was good to hear Rhianna perform in spite of Brown being there, but I would’ve liked it more if she wasn’t the sexualized object of it.  If she wants to do the sexual thing, I would like to see her be dominant rather than dominated. 

  • Pingback: We have every right to be angry about Chris Brown at the Grammys | Threads

  • Alicia

    In regards to the Whitney tribute, I applaud Jennifer Hudson
    but I wish there had been more. Although, I do realize that there was only a
    24-hour period for the Grammy’s to put something together. To address the Chris
    Brown situation, I really think its time that people move on from continuing to
    punish him. He did not get away with it and he has done everything possible to
    get people to see he is trying to make a change. Why is it that he cannot be
    redeemed when so many other people in this industry have committed just as many
    sins? He will always have this halo of domestic violence around him and he will
    always struggle to overcome it. From a PR standpoint I think Chris should
    address those twitter comments if even to say that he appreciates the support
    but wants to point out he does not condone any of the statements.  Domestic violence is a serious issue but
    is there no room for a second chance considering he can and has contributed so
    much to this industry as an artist?

    • Anonymous

      To me you can only get a second change if you a) resolve your issues (hello window! meet chair!) and b) express your sincere regret of your past actions and that YOU and only YOU were responsible for them. Neither is the case AT ALL with Chris Brown. To be honest victims receive so much scorn… (Oksana? Whitney?) I am not ready to forgive. For me the point is not to forgive someone who hasn’t even changed, but more that I don’t want all those White abuser men to get room on stage either! So I’d like to see more protests targeting White men as well.

    • Anonymous

      Could you please give examples of how Chris Brown has “done everything possible to get people to see he is trying to make a change”? I certainly haven’t seen any.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSuperAmanda Super Amanda

       Chris Brown has continued to have problems and act arrogant. Would have liked to see some extensive volunteer work and the creation of a foundation instead of more drama and immaturity. I do not consider him an artist.

      • Alicia

        I agree that he still has work to do that would paint him in a better light but people refuse to acknowledge the steps he has already taken.

        • http://twitter.com/TheSuperAmanda Super Amanda

          I think with Chris Brown there are many factors that he may never eclipse  like how young Rihanna was at the time and the fact she drifted back to him before ending it. I remember Oprah telling her  via shout out on her  show “he will hit you again, get away from him”.  I do agree that there are men like James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis who are affectionately viewed as legends via a retrospective/ nostalgic white wash yet were just as abusive.  I think all of us won’t “get over” barriers in race and culture until we hold ourselves and artists who are paid millions to different standards in this day and age.

          As I said, I would have liked to have seen him create an encounter group for deprogramming men and women who grew up witnessing their mothers abused and/or around domestic violence or volunteer at a women’s shelter for months-not hours. The fact he claimed that he did “not recall the assault” is a huge red flag for ducking personal responsibility.  I hope he does not do it again and continues to get well.

        • dersk

          Didn’t you just say above that the steps he’s taken were court ordered? That doesn’t exactly demonstrate anything other than a willingness to plea bargain. And I suspect he regrets the damage he did to his career (minimal though it appears to have been) more than the damage he did to her face.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSuperAmanda Super Amanda

       Chris Brown has continued to have problems and act arrogant. Would have liked to see some extensive volunteer work and the creation of a foundation instead of more drama and immaturity. I do not consider him an artist.

  • Anonymous

    Good luck on Presente  sending out an online petition-most of those are just discarded and ignored by the recipients.  A better thing to do would be to boycott the Grammys and not answer their call if you are an artist of color. Even better, start to boycott the music industry by downloading as much as possible.

  • Carol

    well, i don’t think “the civil wars” is as bad as “lady antebellum”, especially because it’s a much vaguer term.

    • dersk

      @Kendra – are you saying that it’s really just the name of the band that you’re uncomfortable with, without knowing anything about the content of the music? FWIW, they’re a folk duo who do sort of angst-ridden tight harmony. Really good stuff, actually. I didn’t know they’d gotten to the Grammies already – I’ve only heard them on some NPR shows so far…

    • dersk

      @Kendra – are you saying that it’s really just the name of the band that you’re uncomfortable with, without knowing anything about the content of the music? FWIW, they’re a folk duo who do sort of angst-ridden tight harmony. Really good stuff, actually. I didn’t know they’d gotten to the Grammies already – I’ve only heard them on some NPR shows so far…

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    Had Chris Brown assaulted Taylor Swift he’d be working at Mickey D’s now.

    The success of Lady Antebellum I think has to do with the general ignorance of people regarding the history of the era in which they make reference to with their name.

  • Jeansimons

    My 14 year old daughter refused to watch the Grammy Awards because of Chris Brown’s appearance. You are right:  there is no domestic violence PR movement, just individuals in silent protest.  This must change.

  • k.eli

     While I’ll admit that Nicki Minaj’s performance was quite bizarre IMO, I don’t really understand all the blowback she’s received from it. After all, it’s nothing that Lady Gaga hasn’t already done (i.e. Judas) – or Madonna for that matter. And yet reading some of the comments from people you would think Nicki invited Satan himself on stage to do a number. But it’s troubling how some Catholic leaders and followers seem to be far more concerned with depictions of Catholic imagery in the media (and contraception) than they seem to be about the unspeakable acts committed against children in their own churches and dioceses.

    • Anonymous

      The Catholic League is upset, but they are non-ordained lay people who have as much authority to speak for the Church as I do.  And I haven’t been to Mass in years.   

      I have plenty of problems with the actual Catholic hierarchy, don’t get me wrong, but Bill Donohue is a self-appointed spokesman.  It pisses me off beyond belief that he gets taken seriously in the media.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSuperAmanda Super Amanda

       Nicki Minaj is just doing media ambulance chasing. I do not see her as part of any movement or with any politics like Lady Gaga has. I really wanted to see Janelle Monáe be taking the place of Perry, Rihanna and NM by now. Agree with you about the RCC all the way!

    • http://twitter.com/TheSuperAmanda Super Amanda

       Nicki Minaj is just doing media ambulance chasing. I do not see her as part of any movement or with any politics like Lady Gaga has. I really wanted to see Janelle Monáe be taking the place of Perry, Rihanna and NM by now. Agree with you about the RCC all the way!

    • Laura

       There was a lot of blowback for Gaga and Madonna’s stuff too. The Pope got the video for “Like A Prayer” banned in Italy and prevented Madonna from performing there. Pepsi dropped her from their ads. If anything, the blowback Minaj is facing is much, much less–probably in part because people are used to this kind of nothing-is-holy provocation.

    • Laura

       There was a lot of blowback for Gaga and Madonna’s stuff too. The Pope got the video for “Like A Prayer” banned in Italy and prevented Madonna from performing there. Pepsi dropped her from their ads. If anything, the blowback Minaj is facing is much, much less–probably in part because people are used to this kind of nothing-is-holy provocation.

  • Kendra

    I was just saying to someone on tumblr that somehow, I feel more uncomfortable with the glorification of groups like Lady Antebellum and The Civil Wars than I ever have at any Civil or Revolutionary War reenactment I’ve ever participated in. I know very little about the personalities in either group, but am bothered by the idea that these names are taken and given at face value to what (I’m assuming is) a mostly white audience. This idea of the safe south/confederacy is becoming more and more prevalent in popular media. (Enough so that  people seem to conveniently forget Ron Paul’s confederate flag speech in their support of his candidacy…) It’s eked its way out of just being a feature of Westerns (the Jesse James myth and American obsession with him is my absolute favorite example) and into several  aspects of music and television.

    As for Nicki… I love that she went out and had her moment. Already anticipating the backlash, and wondering how it’ll compare to the backlash Gaga or Perry would have received. (Speaking of Katy Perry, can we talk about how she was caught on camera applauding the man who abused her supposed best friend? Reasons I Left The Entertainment Industry Pt. I)