At this year’s Grammys, it wasn’t just the awards and performances that people were tuning in to see.
One of viewers’ biggest questions had less to do with who’d take home the trophies and more to do with what role the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements would play throughout the night.
Themes from the red carpet quickly became clear, with a smattering of artists and guests decked out in all-black (similar to the Golden Globes), while some wore a white rose or a Time’s Up pin to stand in solidarity with the workplace anti-harassment campaign. The biggest question: What, if anything, would presenters and performers say from the stage?
Janelle Monáe gave a powerhouse speech that quickly became one of the most talked-about moments of the night.
As she stood on stage to introduce a performance by Kesha, Monáe took the opportunity to make a statement that resonated with the audience and beyond.
“Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist but a young woman with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry,” said Monáe. “Artists, writers, assistants, publicists, CEOs, producers, engineers, and women from all sectors of the business. We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and human beings.”
“We come in peace, but we mean business,” she continued, gearing up for the night’s rallying cry. “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.”
“Because, you see, it’s not just going on in Hollywood, it’s not just going on in Washington — it’s right here in our industry as well,” she added. “And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well. So let’s work together, women and men, as a united music industry, committed to creating more safe work environments, equal pay and access for all women.”
It was a speech the world needed to hear and one that should inspire a generation of young girls to understand the power they hold.
Girls and women do have the power to shape culture, and they don’t have to put up with a world that refuses to see them as equals.
For years, Kesha was trapped in a sort of artistic purgatory for speaking out about her sexual assault at the hands of one of the industry’s top producers. In 2017, she broke free, releasing “Rainbowm,” a stunning album from start to finish and a major departure from her early-career radio hits.
Women like Kesha deserve to have their voices heard without fear of retaliation, and it’s on the rest of the industry to have her back and the backs of other artists when they’re the victims of injustice.
Monáe’s speech was capped off by Kesha’s raw and moving performance of her survivor’s anthem “Praying.”
As Kesha took the stage after Monáe’s introduction, we saw a champion for survivors of sexual assault emerge to take her well-deserved place as a part of music’s biggest night.
Watch Kesha’s performance below. Monáe’s speech can be found on the official Grammy Awards website.