Artists have been taking full advantage of awards season to make political statements -- Meryl Streep's now unforgettable Golden Globes speech the most memorable example -- and the 59th Annual Grammy Awards were no exception. Here's how musicians, performers and at least one blatant attention-seeker made their voices heard on music's biggest night.
Joy Villa's not-so-subtle Trump dress
Relative unknown (OK, let's face it, complete unknown) Joy Villa used her red carpet entrance as an opportunity to unveil a Trump/Make America Great Again dress. The self-described singer/actress has previously identified herself as a vegan health coach and feminist -- values that haven't traditionally been linked to the meat-and-potatoes, you-know-what grabbing prez, so we're going assume this was just a stunt, which she's done on the carpet before. Like, a lot. OK, girl. Whatever.
Jennifer Lopez quotes Toni Morrison
Jennifer Lopez, not traditionally known for heady statements, made the first politically charged statement during the show, saying that artists' voices were needed now more than ever and quoting Toni Morrison. In a speech now being repurposed for the Trump era, Morrison said in 2004 after George W. Bush's re-election: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." Jenny from the Block is woke, y'all!
Paris Jackson's pipeline protest shout-out
The late Michael Jackson's daughter Paris Jackson used her minutes at the podium to mention the Dakota pipeline -- although not explicitly. "We could use this excitement at a pipeline protest," she said, presumably figuring that all the people in the audience and at home knew she was talking about the much-protested access pipeline the Army Corps of Engineers is seeking to route through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. It's a big cause of hers -- she even has one of her many tattoos devoted to it.
Katy Perry's Constitutional call-out
Rocking a "PERSIST" armband, Katy danced, dressed like Ellen and hid behind a white fence like Wilson from Home Improvement while performing her new song "Chained to the Rhythm." The song is already steeped in a political statement, with lyrics like, "We're living in a bubble, bubble / So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble." (And, if we're really reading into it, her tuxedo might've been a subtle call-out to the Hillary's Pantsuit Nation; Perry was a big Hillary supporter.) As the camera panned away towards the end, we saw the "We the People" section of the Constitution -- an unmistakable reference to the tumultuous first few weeks of the new administration's new legislation and court battles. Perry shouted, "No hate!" as she finished.
Laverne Cox's trans awareness moment
Orange Is the New Black and Doubt star Laverne Cox used her time introducing Lady Gaga's performance with Metallica to bring awareness to the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen from Virginia who's headed to the Supreme Court over his right to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity. Cox, who gave a shout-out to non-binary gender people watching, urged everyone to check out the hashtag #StandWithGavin, naturally making it trend on Twitter. Of course, the Obama administration made the rights of trans people and children a priority -- no longer the case in the now GOP-controlled White House.
A Tribe Called Quest's blistering rebuke
The legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest brought the strongest rebuke of the new White House to the show, with lead Q-Tip opening the set and dedicating it to "all the people pushing people in power to represent you." Tribe has long been one of the most socially conscious hip-hop groups in the genre's history, a passion they brought to full tilt with their fiery political song "We the People," which they performed on Saturday Night Live last year right after the election. But it was Busta Rhymes who had the hardest, most direct blows, referring to the president as "President Agent Orange," whom he called to task for the "Muslim ban" and "perpetuating evil." (At least one of the group's members, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, is Muslim.) With them giving raised, power-to-the-people salutes and bringing a, uh, tribe of all types of people on stage while Q-Tip kept saying "Resist! Resist!" it was the strongest statement of the night.
The other big-shot president defends the arts
In any other time, the speech given by Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the The Recording Academy, would've been relatively benign; his opening comments that we're too often defined by things that divide us (race, religion, sexual orientation, political party) are pretty much always true as anyone who uses Facebook knows. His call to focus on shared values, though, began to steer the talk into overtly political territory, and that snippet of "America the Beautiful" was an emotional plea for at least one thing we can agree on. He talked about the power of music to lift our souls, and how it's an emotional, spiritual and economically important asset and export. But when he appealed to the president and Congress to protect its commitment to the arts, it was not only political statement (as the GOP is known for slashing budgets for arts and entertainment, and the current administration is reportedly prepping to do just that) but also a strategic move to protect the industry. Music education and the arts as a whole are so embedded into the fabric of life we're all probably a little blind to how it affects us. But a nation without music teachers, music programs, free performances in public spaces and on and on and on means, on just one level, fewer young people exposed to music and making it, which could dramatically impact the industry quicker than we realize.
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