I really still can’t get over the fact that Ed Sheeran beat Kesha and three other incredibly talented female musicians last night at the Grammys.
I have nothing against Ed Sheeran – in fact, quite the opposite: I think he’s probably the best male pop artist in the mainstream today. He writes his own songs (and some of his lyrics are damn good), he sings reasonably well, plays his own instruments, and he seems like a down to earth guy to boot.
That said, “Shape of You” isn’t one of his better songs, and it’s a pretty lightweight, slightly juvenile and simplistic song about a man primarily attracted to a woman physically (the throwaway line ‘although my heart is falling too’ notwithstanding), which is kind of a slap in the face considering this was a year where women stepped up against sexism in the industry in their sadly ongoing fight to be treated as equally substantial to men. Hell, “Shape of You” wasn’t even the best MALE pop vocal last year (Harry Styles’ “Sign O’ the Times” deserved some recognition).
It’s not just that “Praying” is about a deeply personal and relevant topic, it’s that it’s clearly audible that Kesha put a lot more into her song on both a technical and emotive level than Sheeran did. The lyrics, the singing, and the production all carry far more depth than what Sheeran clearly intended to be just another Top 40 single you could play in clubs.
The same can be said for the other contenders. “A Million Reasons” is a defining example of how far Gaga’s palette has expanded as a vocalist, songwriter and performer since her first record. I was not as impressed by P!nk or Clarkson’s works (I think P!nk returns to the well of melodramatic relationship ballads a bit too much), but each of them showed quite a bit more to their talents than I feel Sheeran did.
I don’t believe a song’s subject matter nor the performer’s personal life should be the deciding factor in what constitutes an award show in – there are probably some objectively terrible songs written about rape and sexual assault out there, too. But Kesha’s song was powerful, well written sung, and perfectly executed all around.
The same thing happened at the Oscars two years ago – when Gaga gave a powerful performance of “Till It Happens to You,” which is a great song and objectively far superior to the song that beat it for Best Original Song (Sam Smith’s vanilla 007 theme “Skyfall”). It seems that these awards committees are perfectly content with giving lip service to these causes, but don’t want to – for whatever reason – give actual credit to the voices making a statement.
This point was driven home by (male) president Neil Portnow’s statement that women need to ‘step up’ to win Grammys.
They’v been, Mr. Portnow. They’ve been. For a LONG time.