In an awards season where so much attention is on women’s equality and representation, the Grammys botched their attempt to be part of the conversation.
Hours before the show aired on Sunday night (January 28), Variety reported that Lorde would not be taking the stage because she wasn’t offered a solo performance slot. All of her fellow (male) nominees in the Album of the Year category were. When asked about the absence of Lorde from the stage, Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich told reporters, “These shows are always a matter of choices, and we know we have a box and the box gets full and filled up. She had a great album, Album of the Year is a big honor, but there's no way we can really deal with everybody.”
Lorde seemingly had a response to the performance snub on Monday, tweeting in all caps, “IF YOU’RE DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT I CAN MURDER A STAGE… COME SEE IT FOR URSELF.” — and then providing a link to the dates for her upcoming Melodrama tour.
Many fans were already frustrated that the Grammys struggled to recognize women all the way through its 2018 ceremony. Best New Artist Alessia Cara was the only woman who received a solo trophy on the main telecast, and of the 86 awards handed out on Sunday, only 17 went to women or female-led bands. On top of that, SZA — the evening’s most-nominated woman — didn’t win a single award, and Ed Sheeran beat an entire category of female pop performers (and wasn’t even there to accept his trophy).
You’d think that the show’s organizers might address the lack of women with empathy and understanding — especially with the hashtag #GrammysSoMale spreading like wildfire — but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. When Recording Academy president Neil Portnow was asked about the lack of female winners, he suggested, in an unfortunate turn of phrase, that female artists need to “step up” the quality of their work.
“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.
Those frustratingly tone-deaf comments aside, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for women on Sunday night. The show included an empowering performance of Kesha’s “Praying” featuring a handful of fellow female pop stars as backup singers. And many stars wore white roses to the ceremony as a sign of support for the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment and discrimination in the entertainment industry. Appropriately enough, Lorde made her own not-so-hidden statement by pinning the excerpt of an empowering essay on the back of her red dress.
“My version of a white rose — THE APOCALYPSE WILL BLOSSOM — an excerpt from the greatest of all time, Jenny Holzer,” Lorde wrote in an Instagram post highlighting the gesture.
The excerpted text, from Holzer's Inflammatory Essays series, read in full, “Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take coverage for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. 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.”