Nikki Haley Is Wrong, Politics & Music Belong Together

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Awards show Twitter is my favorite Twitter, and, being a music nerd, the Grammys are my favorite awards show during which to get on Twitter and rip everything to shreds (with the occasional loving shout out). It turns out that is something that the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and I have in common.

Haley's main complaint during the 2018 Grammys wasn't with the lack of representation for female artists. She wasn't bummed that Ed Sheeran got snubbed. She didn't even inquire about where Taylor Swift was, because even Haley knows that sometimes Taylor needs a break. No, she was upset that the show was too political.

Haley's beef was specific: she didn't like the segment where artists (and Hillary Clinton) read excerpts from The Fire and the Fury, the anti-Trump book whose author speculates in it that Trump is having an affair with Haley. She had to deny the rumor in a press conference, so, if I were in her place and just minding my business with a glass of pinot noir while watching the Grammys, my nose might go out of joint at its inclusion as well.

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Where Haley and I part ways is in her last sentence: "Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it." I wonder if she felt that Kendrick Lamar's opening performance with U2 of "XXX." was great music because it was also a highly political statement in favor of Black Lives Matter and as a warning about the dangers of military industrial complex.

Was Kesha's emotional performance of "Praying," accompanied by Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, Bebe Rexha, and the Resistance Revival Choir (a group who formed at the first Women's March), great music? It was certainly a moment of bravery and an intensely political statement condemning the abuse and systematic oppression of women. Lady Gaga used her performance to show her support for the Time's Up movement, by mentioning it as she transitioned between songs.

Perhaps Haley is more traditional. If she enjoyed Sting performing "Englishman in New York," his 31-year-old hit single, she was enjoying a song about Quentin Crisp, a gay icon who wanted to get his American citizenship so he wouldn't be deported for committing crimes, including the then-crime of being flamboyantly gay.

If it was Patti LuPone's amazing rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" that left Haley moved, well then she was enjoying a salute to Evita Peron, the iconic and controversial hero of the working class, oppressed peoples, and women of Argentina. It was, quite literally, written because of politics.

Chris Stapleton and Emmy Lou Harris's tribute to Tom Petty, in which they played his song "Wildflowers," was both poignant and a reminder that we are in the midst of an opioid crisis in America, something her boss has declared a national health emergency.

It could be argued that DJ Khalid, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller made a statement with their Surrealist set design, given that Surrealism's roots were in Communism. While I doubt any of the performers are Communists, I don't doubt for a moment that they sympathize with 1920s and '30s Communistic desire to liberate the proletariat; it is loosely the political philosophy that Khaled's "they don't want you..." catchphrase is rooted in.

I'll assume Haley did not appreciate Logic shouting out Trump's reference to shithole countries during his performance of the anthem, "1-800-273-8255," though she is surely in favor of suicide prevention. And it seems safe to assume she's not a fan of U2's...erm, entire career.

And those are just the performances; I could go on and on listing out the presenters who got political. What Haley doesn't want to hear is criticism of the administration for which she works.

Since the Bush administration invaded Iraq, I've heard people ask when music was going to get political again. But I know people have been asking that question since the '60s ended. It was just a matter of what it would really take to push the world of musical arts back into the political realm. Last night at the Grammys, we got a definitive answer: It took the policies of the Trump administration and the deplorable words and actions of President Trump. If Haley doesn't want to hear about politics at the Grammys, she might as well turn her television off for the next four years.

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