SAN FRANCISCO – A giant video projection of the U.S. Constitution loomed over the stage at this year’s Grammys, making the music industry’s top awards show one of the most overtly political yet.
The document that defines America and famously begins with “We the People” provoked a standing ovation from the audience at the culmination of a performance by pop singer Katy Perry, who wore a “Persist” armband and sang her newly released song, “Chained to the Rhythm.”
With a refrain of “We think we’re free,” the song’s lyrics talk about being lulled into a “comfortable bubble.” Performing on a set that included a picture-perfect white picket fence, Perry was joined by Skip Marley, grandson of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, whose songs often protested against oppression and social injustice.
The aftermath of November’s bitterly fought U.S. presidential election has produced a succession of political comments by artists at awards shows, most notably actress Meryl Streep’s speech attacking U.S. President Donald Trump during the Golden Globes Awards in January.
That spree continued on Sunday, as various artists talked about the divisive political atmosphere and the need to speak out.
“At this particular time in history, our voices are needed more than ever,” said Jennifer Lopez onstage at the start of the show.
In a more comic vein, Grammys host James Corden began the show with a rap: “Live it all up because this is the best, and with President Trump we don’t know what comes next.”
Hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest performed a politically charged medley with best new artist nominee Anderson Paak, calling out to “Agent Orange,” a nickname for Trump. At the end of the song, women wearing headscarves joined the performers onstage accompanied by cries of “Resist!”
At an early ceremony ahead of the main awards show, Chance the Rapper won an award for best rap performance, during which he wore a black hoodie with “Obama” on the back and “thank you” on the front.
But the commentary was not all anti-Trump. In a bold statement that instantly made headlines, singer Joy Villa on the red carpet revealed a gown with “Make America Great Again” — Trump’s election slogan — stitched down the front. Billboard magazine later reported the designer of the garment, Andre Soriano, is himself a Filipino immigrant and that the dress was meant to promote unity.