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Eight Political Statements at the 2018 Grammys

Calls for social justice, gender equality and more

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley may not be happy about the mixing of politics and music, but the two go way, way back. Art and music have always derived fuel and fire from the political zeitgeist, and this past year, in particular, has given artists plenty to be charged up about. So should it come as any surprise that there were political moments, speeches and performances at last night’s Grammy Awards? Below, a look at the eight top moments.

Kendrick Lamar and Dave Chappelle
The 2018 Grammys opened with Kendrick Lamar standing in front of an American flag, flanked by dancers in combat gear. The rapper’s sharp critiques of police brutality and meditations on the black experience in America made for an incendiary performance, punctuated by stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle—halfway through, the camera cut to him as he said: “The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America”—and ending with each of his dancers, in red hoodies, dropping to the floor to the sound of gunshots.

Fire and Fury narration
“We know that our current president does love winning awards and the good news is he may just be the subject of next year’s winner [for Best Spoken Word Album],” announced host James Corden. “The question I’ve got is, who will be the narrator?” In a pre-taped segment, several people stepped up to “audition,” including John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Cardi B and—wait for it—Hillary Clinton, each of whom read out various excerpts from Michael Wolff’s explosive new book on Donald Trump, Fire and Fury.

Lorde’s dress-with-a-message
The Kiwi singer may not have walked the red carpet (likely in response to being the only artist nominated for Album of the Year who wasn’t invited to do a solo performance) but she still managed to send out a powerful message as “[her] version” of the white rose in support of Time’s Up. Sewn into the back of her Valentino dress was an excerpt from artist Jenny Holzer’s Inflammable Essays, which read: “Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. That apocalypse will blossom.”

Camila Cabello’s DACA shoutout
As she introduced U2’s performance, the Havana singer/songwriter took a moment to speak out in support of DACA, an Obama-era path to immigration for children of undocumented immigrants in the US. “Today, in this room full of music’s dreamers, we remember that this country was built by dreamers, for dreamers, chasing the American dream. I’m here on this stage tonight because, just like the DREAMers, my parents brought me to this country with nothing in their pockets but hope. They showed me what it means to work twice as hard and never give up. And honestly no part of my journey is any different from theirs. I’m a proud Cuban-Mexican immigrant, born in Eastern Havana, standing in front of you on the Grammy stage in New York City, and all I know is, just like dreams, these kids can’t be forgotten and are worth fighting for.”

U2’s Statue of Liberty performance
One of the night’s loudest statements was actually a visual one—U2 performed their politically charged track Get Out of Your Own Way on a barge on New York’s Hudson River, with the Statue of Liberty looming large in the background, and an artwork by renowned French artist and activist JR behind them. The dramatic performance ended with Bono shouting into a megaphone decorated with the American flag: “Blessed are the shithole countries, for they gave us the American Dream.”

Logic’s not-so-veiled dig at Donald Trump
American rapper Logic ended his performance of 1-800-273-8255, alongside Khalid and Alessia Cara, with this message: “To all the beautiful countries, filled with culture, diversity and thousands of years of history — you are not sh*tholes! And lastly on the behalf of those who fight for equality in a world that is not equal, not just, and not ready for the change we are here to bring, I say unto you: bring us your tired, your poor and any immigrant who seeks refuge, for together we can build not only a better country but a world that is destined to be united.”

Janelle Monae’s #TimesUp speech
In one of the most powerful moments of the night, Janelle Monae introduced Kesha’s moving, emotional performance of Praying, with words that resounded around the internet: “We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s Up. We say Time’s Up for pay inequality, Time’s Up for discrimination, Time’s Up for harassment of any kind, and Time’s Up for the abuse of power.”

Beyonce’s Black Panther-inspired outfit
Another silent but powerful statement was Beyonce’s showstopping black gown custom-made by Nicolas Jebran and inspired by the 1960s Black Panther movement for social justice. “The idea was to create a moment, a memorable design with meaning because it’s more than just a gown,” the designer told Vogue. Queen Bey also carried a custom Judith Leiber clutch in the shape of a panther.

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