Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year. Lainey and I were gushing over Golden Hour all night. We both love the album. I was defending her performance of “Rainbow” to friends over text because while it did feel like it dragged during the broadcast, “Rainbow” is a gorgeous song with a beautiful message. Golden Hour, top to bottom, is a stunning album. It’s really, really pretty. When Kacey won Best Country Album, I was all for it. But as much as Golden Hour is a pretty album from a very talented artist, I don’t believe it’s the album of the year.
I referenced the Grammys’ waning relevance in my post about Drake earlier. I get that the Grammys aren’t the Billboard awards. This isn’t about radio charts or albums sold but IF the Grammys want to stay current and continue to be a show anyone gives a sh-t about, the top prize of the night should go to an album that has had a cultural impact as well as being an artistic accomplishment. There were other albums from the list of nominees that fall into both categories more than Golden Hour but the one I want to focus on, and the one I truly believe deserved to win Album of the Year, is Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.
Dirty Computer as a full “sonically-cohesive” (remember, that’s Taylor Swift’s favourite phrase to use while she’s campaigning for a Grammy) album that defied all expectations. It is Janelle’s best work to date, and that’s saying something from an artist who already had an impressive catalogue. Dirty Computer isn’t Janelle’s first concept album but it is her opus, the album in which she declared to the world who she is and who she’s been. It’s her Lemonade. Musically, it’s outstanding but culturally, it started a conversation that was so necessary. The day before Dirty Computer dropped, Janelle came out as pansexual to Rolling Stone. She started a national discussion about pansexuality through her work.
In her songs, she addressed gender norms and the hardships that come with being a black queer woman in America. Janelle, as a newly christened “free-ass motherf-cker,” delivered liberating pop tracks and synth-heavy sh-t that sounds like it’s from the future, as she does. It shouldn’t be but it’s still radical to be an out and proud queer black woman in music and especially now, radical is what the industry needs. I don’t know why I expected it from the Recording Academy when their track record with rewarding black women is so sh-t but Dirty Computer is the album that took the most risks and delivered the most satisfying payoff. It isn’t just full of pretty love songs (no disrespect to pretty love songs).
I like Kacey Musgraves a lot, and I don’t hate the choice to reward her for her exceptional work on Golden Hour. I just don’t think this was her year.
Both Janelle Monae and Kacey Musgraves have had to put up with the bullsh-t sexism that come with their industry. Both have had trouble getting played on radio. Both have been vocal about their support for the LGBTQ+ community (Kacey’s “Rainbow” has quietly become an LGBTQ+ anthem). Both artists have deserved more than they’ve been given but last night, one was left with less than she earned. Kacey won every single Grammy she was nominated for. Janelle was only nominated for Album of the Year and Best Music Video and she didn’t win either. It is baffling to me that someone can produce a piece of art as important and impressive as Dirty Computer and not be recognized for it by the most allegedly respected institution in music.
I noted Kacey’s dreary performance of “Rainbow” above. I love the message of the song and I love that she chose to give it the spotlight during the biggest platform of her career considering its message, but Janelle Monae gave a performance from 2062 that I don’t think the Grammys will ever forget.
For those that missed Janelle Monae’s full performance at the Grammys, here you go. pic.twitter.com/Zz4iZ3icmj— CRT (@StoryofEverest) February 11, 2019