Awards Season Music Recap

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Heartwarming” Grammy Performance Left Me Cold

This is probably going to be the first of quite a few Macklemore-centric posts coming down the pipe, since they just took home four awards at last night’s Grammys. I’m pretty sure the next one will be more affirmative for them, so bare with me if you are a fan of the pop-rap superstar (and Ryan Lewis).

I decided to address their Grammy performance first, since some have already been heralding it as an unforgettable, landmark moment in the telecast’s history. It kind of was; no one has staged a mass, multi-orientation wedding on TV before, definitely not during an awards ceremony. And for the 34 genuinely happy couples who exchanged rings, it will certainly go down as unforgettable (very few people can say that Beyonce and Jay-Z and Pharrell’s hat attended their wedding).

As an artistic statement, however, something about it left me feeling unmoved. I was more emotional at seeing Keith Urban shed a tear than I was by the display put on last night.

The “Same Love” performance was an overblown spectacle, with too many moving parts and random appearances that stifled any genuine emotion that was intended to be derived from it. “Same Love”, a Grammy nominee for Song of the Year, is an earnest meditation about sexual orientation and society’s failure to embrace it, but all of that was lost with a neon chapel background, Macklemore’s spastic stage movement, Queen Latifah’s role as justice of the peace and Madonna’s pimp suit-accompanied version of “Open Your Heart”. At best, it was an awkwardly staged mess. At worst, it was an emotionally manipulative and exploitative farce.

The underlying problem with the performance, and Macklemore’s problem in general (which isn’t necessarily his fault, but that’s another post coming), is the image they presented. The grandiosity of the performance screamed, “look at us, we are fighting for marriage equality.” To seem even more credible, they threw in Queen Latifah, who has been actively ignoring sexuality rumors for years, and Madonna, the gay icon to end all gay icons. Honestly, the performance felt like another instance of Macklemore and Ryan playing “savior of the minority.” It was less about equal marriage rights, and more about them being the one waving the banner. It sucks because I don’t doubt their sincerity in his fight for equal rights. I just wish he could see how calculated it all looks. I can actually imagine Ryan patting Macklemore’s back as they left the stage.

The performance would’ve had a stronger emotional impact without the pomp and circumstance. Let the couples get married, but how about on stage? How about just them and Macklemore and Ryan and Mary Lambert and that beautiful song as the only ornaments? How about an actual minister delivering the rites (no offense to Queen Laitfah)? How about no Madonna? I’m sure I could have spared a tear or two, watching something that should’ve been intimate and about genuine love, regardless of gender and orientation.

Instead, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes by the time the weddings started.  And l felt like an awful human being, because it was a really sweet moment for those couples.

I just can’t help feeling like those couples were another checkmark on Macklemore’s checklist for superstardom.

Suddenly, Madonna’s appearance makes a little more sense.


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