Open Thread: The American Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez performs at the 2013 American Music Awards

Pitbull hosted, 39 year old rap star of my childhood Nelly proclaimed his love for 19 and 21 year old girls while performing Ride Wit’ Me, TLC continued to make me sad by insisting on continuing to perform sans Left Eye, and Jennifer Lopez gave a killer Celia Cruz tribute, but the American Music Awards were still plagued with overt racism, troubling moments, and a grim glimpse into what this year’s Grammys are going to look like.

The show opened with this gem of a performance from Katy Perry:

A quick check with Twitter confirmed that I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing (Katy Perry performing a song that has nothing to do with Japan, it’s people or their culture, while wearing a kimono and possible yellow face surrounded by others doing the same? Check.) and that it was, yes, as problematic as I thought it was. Unfortunate, but not entirely unsurprising given the legacy handed down by other pop artists like our friend Gwen Stefani.

The shtick is doubly creepy when you consider how Perry’s supposed love of Japanese people manifested itself during an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel show back in 2012:

“I am obsessed with Japanese people, I love everything about them and they are so wonderful as human beings. I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace.”

By any means necessary, eh Katy?

The second biggest “Yikes.” of the night came when Macklemore beat out a slew of Black artists in the favourite rap/hip-hop album category and proceeded to make a Very Special Comment about Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin and racial profiling. A comment that I might have found more sincere had he mentioned the names or cases of any of the numerous other cases since Trayvon Martin’s; Renisha McBride, perchance?

It may have also been more meaningful coming out of the mouths of one of the other nominees in the category (Kendrick Lemar or Jay-Z), but that could just be my own cynicism. In a year filled with the Macklemores, Lordes, Justin Timberlakes (he picked up two televised AMA wins), and Robin Thickes of the world it looks like Black artists will have to continue fighting for wins in the hip-hop, rap, and RnB categories as we move into Grammy season.

I tuned in and out of the show (because 11pm is late for anything to be ending, I just started a Charmed rewatch on Netflix, and it’s not like these are the Oscar Awards of music or anything), so I invite y’all to discuss  anything I may have missed (and/or the sad state of popular music) in the comments below.

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  • Carter Murphy

    I understand what white privilege is, but I don’t agree with attacking white people when they speak out on something. That’s sure as heck not progressive. We attack white individuals for being oblivious, but when they speak up, we shame them? Get outta here with that.

    • Delevan

      You are very naive if you think him paying lip serious to the cause of others is something to claim to be progressive. It’s his privilege because he has nothing to lose, Do you think a black act could have actually get away with talking about Trayvon Martin and not get a few Bo’s and be accused of playing the race card in the press the next day even if it is only hinted at? It’s not even progressive in this case it would be “regressive” to the cause of POC when we have to wait for white folks to decide when they want to speak for us.

      • Carter Murphy

        So you just want whites to not speak on it then? Because them speaking on it would be yet another example of their privilege, right?
        Listen, I see and understand the struggle, but causing a hoopla about a white artist speaking on racism is dumb as hell, especially when we have no way of discerning his intentions.

  • happyappa

    Ugh what the heck, I was familiar with KPs racist comments, and that she dressed in “geisha-inspired” clothes before, but I just found out about this. If I could describe it, it would be a weaboo fetishist racist hipster performance.. Sickening. Oh and Lady Gaga is defending her. Birds of a feather…

  • Alyssa Bacon-Liu

    As I’m reading this, there is an ad for Katy Perry’s new album on the sidebar :/

    Oh, AdChoices.

  • Carter Murphy

    I feel like the Macklemore comment was petty; the man did what no other white artist is willing to do. Heck, even some black artists won’t talk about it.

  • NVioleta

    I thought it was insulting that Jennifer Lopez was picked to pay tribute to Celia Cruz. Just because both are Latina doesn’t mean they have anything in common! Celia was a legend and had a stage presence. Why not have someone like Marc Anthony or Gloria Estefan — artists recognizable to the average American — sing Celia? They would have made so much more sense.

    • aboynamedart

      I don’t think it’s quite accurate to suggest that Jennifer Lopez isn’t known to the “average” American, given her high profile for most of the past decade.

      • NVioleta

        Sorry, I see I wasn’t clear with my comment. My objection to Jennifer Lopez performing wasn’t that she isn’t well known, it’s that she has nothing in common musically speaking with Celia Cruz and is a weak singer. I suggested Gloria Estefan or Marc Anthony because their style of music is much more similar to Celia’s, and their names are familiar to American audiences so they would be inclined to tune in.

  • literatebrit

    I actually like Macklemore but I still don’t think he deserved to win over Kendrick Lamar or even Jay-Z I definitely feel that white rappers get way too much credit when they are probably going to be one hit wonders (like all of the hullabaloo about Kreayshawn, and even earlier, Asher Roth).

    • Alyssa Bacon-Liu

      Yes! White rappers are treated like magical creatures! Everything they do is supposedly brilliant and “socially conscious.”

  • jen*

    I was underwhelmed at the show, but loved the moment when Pitbull politely schooled the audience in Miami bounce (even if it was weird to have women on stage *just* for that). I wish that this lesson would sink in…

    Otherwise, I agreed with Sarah Silverman (and I don’t often say that) in her lead in to the R&B award (as JT, Robin Thicke, and Rihanna were nominated).

  • WomanistReflections

    Agreed with the main points of this article.
    I feel like white pop stars aren’t even trying anymore to NOT appropriate. It seems like it’s still such a popular thing to do. I’m so tired of it. KP got criticized a lot for that interview + she did a skit on SNL mocking people who fetishsize Asians…how is it that no one on her team, including her, stopped that performance and made it go in another direction??

    as for Macklemore I’m so tired of him being relevant. I can’t wait for him to disappear for reasons that I don’t even want to rehash again…sigh

  • Meadows-Choi

    Macklemore you got to be kidding me. Hipster rap is the trend now. What comes to mind when i hear about hipsters is Beatniks.