Taylor Swift Vs Kanye West
At 19 years old Taylor Swift walked up to accept one of her first and biggest awards; Best Female Video at the VMA’s. That was until Kanye West stormed the stage and told the world that Beyoncé deserved the award more. It’s one thing to have someone say you shouldn’t have won; but it’s another to be compared to Beyoncé in front of the world. Fast-forward 7 years and Kanye West rises with a new album rapping: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous”.
It’s unfortunately becoming commonplace now for sexism in music. We hear it constantly through lyrics and yet we slam female artists for singing about their past relationships or ‘using’ them to sell records. We’re okay with men rapping about sex with women but not okay with women using their own sexuality in music.
Kanye West is just one of many examples of how misogynistic lyrics try and undercut a woman’s self worth, and it could have been easy for Taylor to lash out or create an argument over it but rather than posting around social media or releasing statements against the rapper of the same level, Swift takes an opportunity when she’s collecting her Grammy award for winning Best Album of the Year for the second time to deliver a powerful speech about her own success.
What started as a diss towards Taylor Swift’s success and person was turned into an opportunity to embrace and own her success, to show her class and passion and empower young women in a perfectly timed, elegant slap in the face to Kanye and all misogyny alike.
It shocked few to hear that Taylor Swift won the best album Grammy for 1989. Her golden statue came at the most opportune time after being caught up in a media storm with her favourite frenemy Kanye West. Taylor used her acceptance speech to send a not so subtle “clap back” at Kanye. Her speech was praised for being a great statement for women and she for being a feminist ambassador for the pop music industry, except it wasn’t and she isn’t.
The problem with Taylor Swift’s feminism is that it is one dimensional and limiting. She pulls out that label when it is cool to use, when it garners her acceptance, not when it’s hard and risks drops on the Billboard chart. She seems to be the one to yell FEMINISM for feminist’s sake while completely disregarding the hardships of all women, especially ones in marginalized groups.
Taylor often gets a pass because she is tall, pretty, and blonde. The basic things that she does often get labelled as exceptional, including her album 1989, are truthfully average at best. This also includes her speech. Swift’s diss would have been more powerful if she actually said something of substance, like what it has taken for her as a woman to get to two albums of the year in the industry and/or how women of all backgrounds behind the scenes still struggle to gain acceptance within it. What would have been truly gutsy is if she had called out Kanye and how artists like him continue to make money off of the objectification of women without issue. The speech felt like was a missed opportunity to truly deliver a strong message about what she stands for as an artist and a woman.
Gaga does Bowie
Since his sudden passing in early January, every ‘Starman’ from Lorde, Madonna and Annie Lennox has paid tribute to the rock legend, David Bowie. Expectations were high for the hectic megamix of Bowie anthems that Gaga was set to perform at this years Grammys. From her break into the pop world in 2008, Gaga has constantly reminded her audiences of where she gets the ideas for her avant garde performances, David Bowie being just one man out of many who have influenced the ‘Born this Way’ singer, so you would think that she would be able to honour his artistry well enough? Wrong.
Sporting neon orange hair, and what seemed to be an Elvis-inspired jumpsuit, she took to the stage charting a medley of hits from: ‘Changes’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Heroes’ complete with erratic dancing and bizarre rope-playing. Produced by Nile Rodgers, whom Bowie had worked with on a number of occasions, the tribute came across as being laughable and ridiculous.
Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones took to twitter announcing that he wasn’t very impressed with Lady Gaga’s tribute to his father. Tweeting “overexcited or irrational, typically as a result of infatuation or excessive enthusiasm; mentally confused” – the dictionary definition of the word ‘gaga’, has been interpreted as a sign of disapproval of the eccentric musical eulogy.
The singer has not only been slated for her poor homage to the late star, but also accused of exploiting the opportunity for her own commercial gain which left fans infuriated. Before and after the performance the technology firm Intel aired a commercial which in it saw Gaga preparing for the Grammys and discussing how the company’s impressive special effects were able to help her recreate Bowie’s famous Aladdin Sane look. Whilst being stunning and inventive, and possibly the best thing about Gaga’s performance; it seems that the Grammys was not the right time to air an advert about Gaga’s new techonolgical collaboration with Intel as it has left fans outraged and “disgusted”.
Throughout his career Bowie strived for the ridiculous. He was a master of re-invention and constantly pushed boundaries. He deserved more than Gaga’s badly sounding voice and wonky dance moves. This performance neither did Gaga or Mr Bowie justice, as it showed that Gaga simply doesn’t have the “Ziggy Stardust” that is needed in order to truly emulate her icon; but then again, who does?
Kendrick steals the show
First off, let’s start with the basics. Kendrick keeps getting snubbed to hell and back at the Grammys. In 2014, M.A.A.D City lost Best Rap Album to Macklemore’s The Heist (is anyone still listening to that steaming pile?) and this year, of course, he lost out to Taylor Swift’s 1989. The big question really is, who is going to be listening to Taylor Swift’s album in 10 years time? To Pimp a Butterfly is probably the best rap album, if not, the best album of the decade. It’s emotional, it’s political, and it’s incredibly important and to see Kendrick not get the kind of respect from The Grammys that he deserves is hard to stomach. Especially considering the fact he also lost song of the year to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’. A song that is nearly two years old now. There’s no justice there, in my opinion.
I think it’s helpful to establish that the Grammys have a serious problem with rap or hip-hop. Outkast are the only artist related to the genre that have won album of the year, and it’s not like the Grammys haven’t had any good contenders. Beyoncé got famously snubbed in place of Beck last year (much to Kanye’s chagrin), and arguably, Kanye West’s best album Late Registration lost to U2. I don’t think I need to go on any further after that.
This is why I think Kendrick’s performance this year was even more important. It felt like he was calling out the Grammys for their distaste towards his genre, As well as, more importantly, condemning the countless injustices his ethnicity and culture have suffered over the past year at the hands of the American police. Kendrick and his band appeared first in a chain gang, dressed in prison blues, with their hands held high, as he roared into ‘The Blacker the Berry’. The social commentary was cutting, delivering powerful lines like “You hate my people, you want to terminate my culture” with confidence and poise. Kendrick then jumped straight into ‘Alright’ a song that has, since its release become seamlessly integrated with the Black Lives Matter movement, becoming a full-blown civil rights anthem.
His band transitioned from their prison garb as the lights dimmed and revealed that the performers were all painted head to toe in UV body paint, denoting traditional African tribal markings. It was recently revealed by Kendrick’s stylist that the female dancers were painted in red, inspired specifically by the Himba tribe in Northern Namibia, the body paint representing the colour of the earth and blood. The symbolism was all carefully crafted and, as a consequence of that, the performance was profound and empowering, and will probably be talked about much more than any of the winners on the night.