Despite the white roses some women chose to wear last night at Grammy Awards in solidarity with #TimesUp, many were left feeling that the Academy severely missed the mark in representation. This isn't a total shock though. In the days leading up to the ceremony, publications released plenty of articles asking "Will The Music Industry Say #MeToo?" and affirming "Why #MeToo Hasn't Taken Off in the Music Industry."
With the entertainment industry's equality revolution in full swing, how did the Grammys fail so miserably? How was Alessia Cara the only female to win a major award? How did Kesha, P!nk, Lady Gaga, and Kelly Clarkson get beat by Ed Sheeran in Best Pop Solo Performance? The same people asking these questions took to a hashtag, #GrammysSoMale, to express their disapproval, something the Recording Academy president responded to in conversation with Variety after the show.
"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. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists,” is what the president, Neil Portnow, was quoted as saying. And he's partially right.
He's right in saying that men need to make a wider berth for women to succeed in the music industry. But he's wrong in saying women need to step up. Women have been stepping up. One need look no further than the show itself where Kesha performed a stirring rendition of “Praying” with Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, and Bebe Rexha by her side. Though never explicitly confirmed, many believe “Praying” to be about Dr. Luke, a producer that Kesha has a long-standing legal battle with over accusations of long-term sexual assault. Her contract with Luke’s record label, an imprint of Sony, still stands. Despite what might have been the best performance of the night, she still lost the Best Pop Solo Performance award to Ed Sheeran, who didn't even attend. Sure, these two things can’t be directly compared, but the optics of it are blinding — you’re good enough for our stage, but not our award.
Kesha's story is sadly not unusual. Venues and music scenes all over the country have seen reports of pervasive sexual and physical abuse of women within the past year; Jesse Lacey of Brand New, Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles, and R. Kelly have all made headlines with allegations against them. Russell Simmons, a co-founder of Def Jam, had three people accuse him in an article for The New York Times. Female artists are left to navigate these obviously troubled waters.
Women don't need to step up. Men need to step aside.