Opinion: Grammys Need to Practice What They Preach

The 2015 Grammys had plenty of letdowns. Beyoncé’s loss of Album of the Year to Beck was a tragedy, Joan Rivers's being left off the memoriam montage was disheartening, and Pharrell’s bellhop outfit was one I hope to soon forget. Perhaps the biggest letdown of the night, however, was the utter hypocrisy displayed by the award show itself.

Amongst many political and social messages that were given attention on Sunday was that of domestic violence. The montage, complete with a powerful spoken-word performance from abuse survivor Brooke Axtell and a sincere speech by President Obama, was beautifully done and much needed. In a society where domestic abuse is more often than not given the blind eye, the importance of shedding light on this issue at a highly publicized event is immeasurable.

However, it is difficult to commend the Grammys when the type of men Axtell talked about were sitting in the audience. Convicted abuser Chris Brown was not only present at the ceremony, but also nominated three times. R. Kelly, an alleged rapist, was also nominated for an award.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

My question to the Grammys is, why? By honoring these men, all credibility is lost. Sure, the domestic abuse message was well-received, but it is difficult to take it seriously when there was a chance an abuser may have won an award.

“It’s on us, all of us, to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people, men and women, can go as far as our talents and their dreams can take them.” President Obama’s words should be applauded, but the Grammy’s decision to tolerate violence shouldn’t. It’s on all of us to create a nonviolent culture, but the poor decision of recognizing abusers and rapists is on the Grammys.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the first instance of Grammy hypocrisy regarding domestic violence. In 2012, on the third anniversary of his assault, Chris Brown was allowed to perform and received a Grammy for Best R&B Album the same year.

With a history of consistently rewarding suspected or known abusers with nominations and awards, the Grammys may be likened to the NFL at this point. It is frustrating to witness a botched attempt at promoting such a prevalent issue in our society, and even worse to know that this hypocrisy created by the Grammys would be nonexistent if the Academy were to lay down the law when it comes to abuse.

“Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes, and get us thinking and talking about what matters,” Obama rightfully told Grammys viewers. Indeed, artists have the immense ability to form attitudes and opinions. This holds true for Katy Perry, whose emotional “By The Grace of God” performance followed Axtell’s story, but, more importantly, this holds true for Chris Brown and R. Kelly, whose music is still able to change minds for the worse because of decisions made by shows like the Grammys. Awards shows have this unique power too, and it’s time they recognize the implications of abusing it.

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Emma Powers