Written by Emilee Lindner • February 13, 2017
Katy Perry already made a statement when she released her new song, “Chained to the Rhythm,” a few days before the Grammys, so a politically charged performance of the song, which features Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley, only made sense. Stepping onstage in an all-white pantsuit, Perry fluttered out the opening lines of the song—“Are we crazy? Living our lives through a lens.” She danced around a white house with a white picket fence. She wore a glittery armband that read “Persist,” a word that recently became associated with Senator Elizabeth Warren when she was silenced on the Senate floor for reading a letter by Coretta Scott King. After Skip Marley came out for his verse, the white house was dismantled to reveal the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, with its original "We The People" scrawl writ large, as Marley and Perry held their hands high in union.
A Tribe Called Quest has never been afraid of political commentary in the past, and with the Grammys occuring on just the 23rd day of Trump’s Presidency, they definitely chose to speak up. “We’d like to say to all of those people around the world, all those people who are pushing people who are in power to represent them, tonight, we represent you,” Q-Tip began the performance, alongside Consequence, Anderson .Paak and Busta Rhymes.
While honoring late Tribe member Phife Dog, they cruised through “Award Tour,” but before launching into “We the People,” Busta had more than a few words: “I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban.” At that point, Q-Tip broke through a symbolic wall, revealing a concrete-strong group of diverse extras. “We the People,” a cut from their farewell album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, speaks against hatemongering with satirical lines like “all you Mexicans, you must go” and “Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways.”
At the end of the performance, the rappers stood with their fists in the air, with Q-Tip leading the force, shouting, “Resist! Resist! Resist! Resist!”
As the first presenter of the night, Lopez set the tone: "At this particular point in history, our voices are needed more than ever.” She went on to quote author Toni Morrison, in reference to the need for the arts to take action, before announcing Chance the Rapper as Best New Artist. “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence and no room for fear. We do language, that is how civilizations heal. So tonight, we celebrate our universal language: music."
Before diving into standard Grammy presenter banter, Laverne Cox introduced the room to Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen fighting for use of the boy’s bathroom at his high school. “Everyone, please Google ‘Gavin Grimm,’” Cox said. “He’s going to the Supreme Court in March. #StandWithGavin.” Grimm’s family has sued their school district, using Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination in public schools, as the basis of the lawsuit.
Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris was tapped to introduce The Weeknd's performance with Daft Punk. But before that, she made a statement at about the Dakota Access Pipeline. Work had been halted during President Obama's term, but Trump is pushing for its completion. Jackson addressed the cheering Grammy crowd: “We could really use this kind of excitement at a pipeline protest guys! #NoDAPL.” Many Native American tribes have been protesting the pipeline, part of which would border the Standing Rock reservation.
(All photos by Getty Images)