The Grammys yet again prove that sexism is deeper than just the gender of the winner

The winners of last nights Grammys were, as always, the safe pedestrian picks. The headline travesty was Bruno Mars winning Album of the Year against a contingent of albums that are way more culturally and musically relevant than ‘24k Magic.’ Lorde’s exquisite ‘Melodrama’ and Kendrick Lamar’s politically charged and ‘Not-as-good-as-To-Pimp-A-Butterfly-but-still-a-good-album-piece’ of ‘DAMN.’ were specifically robbed. But the key point to take away from these awards is, despite Lady Gaga shouting out the ‘Times Up’ movement and giving Kesha a stage for her genuinely moving performance of ‘Praying’ in the performances, the award-giving proved yet again the intrinsic sexism alive in the music industry today.

At first glance, this may seem like a fallacy when questioning sexism within the Grammys. In the last decade, 6 of the 10 Album of The Year winners have been won by a female solo act or a band with female members. The significance is not with the winners but with the nature of the albums that won. In 2017 Adele beat Beyonce to Album of the Year, a decision so ludicrous that Adele used her acceptance speech to apologise to Beyonce. This decision is symbolic of the nature of sexism within the music industry, that being if you are a female artist you must adhere to a male-written narrative of what a female musician should be.

Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ is reflective of women’s issues. The visual album that accompanied Lemonade made clear the internal struggles that drive the narrative of the album; dealing with cheating, possessiveness, loss and ultimately embracing forgiveness. Although these may not necessarily be healthy, they reflect the truth. In many ways, Lemonade is an album for the empowerment of women, one which towers above to the songbook of love ballads that Adele released in ‘25’. ‘25’ lacks in any sort of clear message and is merely a showcase for Adele’s powerhouse vocals.

This is not to say that the Grammys should be awarded purely on message. When it comes to Adele’s win I am certain that anti-feminist agenda was not the sole reason for Beyonce’s loss.  The ever-eternal spectre of racism surely played a part, as well as Adele’s commercial marketability. However, the feminist angle of Lemonade would have surely played a part in its loss due to its inability to appeal to a jury of elderly white males. An album of grieving ex-lovers is bound to appeal to the male fantasy more than a woman preaching female empowerment and wielding her own power.

Leaving aside Album of the Year, 2018’s Grammys had other signs that sexism plays a part in the awarding of honours.  SZA, the most nominated female in 2018 did not win one of her 5 nominations for CTRL, despite critical acclaim. SZA struggled with the same issue Beyonce did the year previous. Her album did not fit the male-driven narrative. An album of dealing with being the ‘Side-Chick’ and dealing with self-esteem issues was not going to appeal to male academy in the same way the sexiness of ‘Versace on the Floor’ would. As always, the issues of minority women are too much for the Grammys to handle.

The other major sign of sexism was Ed Sheeran winning Best Pop Solo Performance for ‘Shape of You.’ ‘Shape of You’ is not usually a song that would outrage me. Although about the objectification of body shape and being an incredibly creepy song with no musical redemption, ‘Shape of You’ beating out the previously mentioned ‘Praying’ by Kesha was a sign that only marketability matters, even in the face of sexism, regardless of race.

The years of court battles between Kesha and Dr. Luke regarding her claims of sexual assault are addressed emotionally and beautifully in an incredible vocal performance by Kesha. In awarding this performance the Grammys, and music industry had a real chance to back women’s rights. A win for Kesha would have been a massive step in accepting the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ movements, however, marketability won over both artistic ability and political statement. The unfortunate truth is the power of music is snubbed in favour of marketability and safe options.

Maybe I am expecting too much of the Grammys. The awards have been plagued by allegations of racism (Macklemore beating Kendrick Lamar for Good Kid. MAAD City) and putting marketability over any sort of artistic nuance for years. Artists such as Kanye West and Frank Ocean have even gone as far as to boycott the ceremonies. But whilst the Grammys still hold weight to both artists and the public alike more should be done to award both males and females of all cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. Awarding the general misogyny of ‘Shape of You’ in a year where massive movement was made by women in standing up against sexual assault will be looked back on unfavorably. But for now, it is better to ignore the winners of the Grammys and focus on the movements of the artists themselves. Kesha and Kendrick both pulled out politically charged performances which gave hope despite the awards themselves, it is this hope that creates the hope that one-day artistry will prevail over sexism, racism, and discrimination.


Album Review: Nick Knowles – Every Kinda People

You would be forgiven for thinking that Taylor Swift’s ‘reputation’ was the biggest album to release on the 10th of November. Sure, her face may be plastered on the side of UPS trucks and there may have been a lot more media coverage, but all of this pales in comparison to the tour de force of an album that is DIY SOS Superstar Nick Knowles ‘Every Kinda People.’

Cynics may call this an uninspired cash grab, an attempt of building off of the success of Bradley Walsh’s album last year but, obviously, they would be wrong. Nick, or Knowlsey as he will be referred to from this point forward, had previously signed a record deal but decided to turn it down in order to focus on his television presenting. In many ways it is unfortunate that his musical talent has laid dormant for all these years, however I believe that is a small price to pay for TV such as ‘Nick Knowles Original Features.’

This obviously a project oozing with passion, featuring no original songs but instead a collection of Knowlsey’s favourite tracks to which Knowlsey adds his own unique spin. The highlight is Knowlsey’s version of the Barry White classic ‘You’re The First, My Last, My Everything.’ Knowlsey’s raw voice makes sure every word is meant and, as the listener, you can’t help but feel Knowlsey really feels this way about you personally. This is the version of this song that Barry White wishes he had written, not relying on backing singers and harmonies. It is an emotional, haunting experience.

Knowlsey is not contempt with having just one future classic on his hands. Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ is one of my personal favourite songs of all time, a gorgeous yet cold track that stirs up every emotion in my body, whilst using the backdrop of the festive season to reflect the loneliness and depression that can be felt. Knowlsey breathes fresh life into this sombre song using his trademark growl to give his own, somehow more poignant, take on one of Joni’s best songs.

His take on ‘Your Body Is A Wonderland’ could be taken for having a double meaning, with the line ‘I’ll use my hands’ possibly referring to his most known role of handyman on DIY SOS. But Knowlsey uses his hands with great effect all throughout this album with them playing Guitar. Knowlsey plays with ease making the guitar an extension of his persona, warm, caring and loving.

Adele had made ‘Make You Feel My Love’ her own song. However, Knowlsey obviously has intentions of challenging for her crown with his own version adding formidable competition to both her and the original composer Bob Dylan. Much like every song on this album, Knowlsey makes you feel the emotions that the lyrics imply.

Ultimately ‘Every Kinda People’ is a modern masterpiece. A truly passionate and daring listen that showcases the beauty of Knowlsey’s guitar playing and voice. It is a shame that this will ultimately be compared to the lesser efforts of the likes of Martine McCutcheon, Bradley Walsh and Jason Manford. Knowlsey is an superb singer and guitarist and ‘Every Kinda People’ is hopefully just the beginning of the musical career of this modern day renaissance man.