Grammys 2019: A Controversial Night For The Academy

Natalie Dest, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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The Grammy Awards are the music industry’s most popular night, but they can be the most awkward as well. While there was a handful of exciting performances and unforgettable big wins two Sundays ago, it is the awkward and controversial moments from the 2019 Grammys that continue to live on in our minds — and the internet.

The Academy has routinely been criticized for its lack of honoring female artists, which made the discussion yet again during this year’s awards.

Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The Recording Academy, commented last year on the matter stating “I think [change] has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on the executive level to step up.”

It was 2019 winner for Best New Artist Dua Lipa’s dig at Portnow during her acceptance speech that led to an uncomfortable pause in the audience, igniting the trending topic through social media.

“It is an honor to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists this year. I guess this year we really stepped up.” Lipa said. The “New Rules” singer’s remark took aim at Portnow’s sexist thinking, and she was not going to step off the stage without saying so, even if her speech was cut off early.

“Being in the New Artist category and having so many female artists nominated is a big change. It’s a change we hope to see for many years to come,” Lipa told reporters in the press room after the show. “It’s a big difference from previous years. I feel so grateful to have been a part of the nominations when they came out and to see so many women honored.”

Lipa’s ‘step up’ comment made one of the top trending topics of Grammy night on Twitter. Portnow replied to the criticism of the lack of female representation by discussing and celebrating the “talent and importance of female voices of our time.”

Lipa was not the only one to stand up to The Academy on live television; viewers also watched Grammy 2019 winner and rapper Drake speak out as well.

Also, getting cut off early, while accepting his award for the hit single “God’s Plan,” the 32-year-old used his speech to denounce the importance of the Grammy’s.

“We play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. It is not the NBA… This is a business where sometimes it is up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to say,” Drake said. “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word. If there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you, you’ve already won.”

Before he could continue, the show cut to commercial, leaving viewers at home confused when the rapper’s mouth was moving yet no sound was being heard. Speculation on social media went viral rather quickly, criticizing the Grammy’s for cutting a speech that was likely dissing its own show.

Drake ended up calling the speech “too raw for t.v.” later in an Instagram post.

Further into the night, the Recording Academy claimed the move to cut Drake’s speech short was not intentional due to its context. A spokesperson for the Academy explained after the show that the ending of the speech “was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the producers, who offered Drake a chance to reappear on stage after the commercial,” according to Variety.

Many viewers went to Twitter to share their thoughts on the experience.

“Grammys had to cut Drake off after he started exposing the award shows,” @kingtisemedia said.

“You really gonna cut Drake off when he had the best speech of the night. #GRAMMYs,” @MelisaGenesis said.

“Thank you, Drake, for questioning what is an artist’s true worth and the meaning of true success. It’s a shame we couldn’t hear more,” @JenRavens09 said.

Controversy seemed to land its way on  Jennifer Lopez as well, questioning why the Grammy’s picked JLo to represent Black music history with a performance. Many audience goers were questioning why this superstar was honored to give a performance dedicated to representing Black talent considering she is a White-Latina performer.

“No offense, #JLO is dope, but I could think of at least 50 Black artists that could’ve been chose to do a #MOTOWN tribute sitting in the audience,” one Twitter account said during her Motown tribute.

The performer spoke out despite her criticism to defend her performance. “The thing about music is that it inspires all,” Lopez said. “Any type of music can inspire any type of artist. You can’t tell people what to love. You can’t tell people what they can and can’t do, what they should sing or not sing. You gotta do what’s in your heart.”

Smokey Robinson also came to Lopez’s defense stating: “Motown was music for everybody. Everybody.” Also suggesting that growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood [the Bronx] gives her Black credit. “Who’s stupid enough to protest Jennifer Lopez doing something for Motown?”

As the awards dwindled down to a leftover buzz on the internet, it is safe to say that the 2019 Grammys had its fair share of controversial, awkward pause moments scattered throughout the night.

Here is to next year, hoping that the 2020 awards are a night filled with successful winners and honoring music; what the Grammy’s should be about.