I think it’s been established at this point that award shows in general have a problem. The winners at the Emmys were disappointing, the nominees for the Oscars are disappointing. At the Grammys, ‘Music’s Biggest Night’, the nominees, winners, and performances have been consistently disappointing for some years now (which is really a far bigger issue about how messy the music industry is today).
The point is, different and original is either rarely recognized, or snubbed altogether. With the Grammys, which are as much a concert experience as they are an awards show, the demonstration of this becomes more explicit. While it’s great that they decided to close the show with a statement, they cheapened that move with obvious concern over image and popularity.
As a prelude to Common and John Legend performing Glory from Selma, Beyonce sang Ms. Mahalia Jackson’s Take My Hand, Precious Lord. The hymn was a favorite of Dr. King’s and is featured in the movie Selma too. A chorus of singers with hands raised as a tribute to Michael Brown stood behind Beyonce as she bellowed.
There’s one problem, in the film the song is performed by Ledisi, who also plays Ms. Jackson.
For the (sadly) unaware, Ledisi is a nine-time Grammy nominee and a renowned name in Soul, Gospel, and R&B. Yet somehow, she’s not as much of a recognized name as Beyonce. That could have changed tonight had she sung the song. Apparently, both Common and John Legend admitted that it was Beyonce who approached them and pitched the idea. So, if she has the kind of clout to schedule and create performances for the freaking Grammys, especially where she seemed to want to pay homage to Selma, she definitely had the power to ask for Ledisi to do it.
Before you get defensive about the vocal prowess of ‘Queen Bey’, here’s Ledisi’s untouchable version to shut you up:
Beyonce could’ve done ANYTHING else, it’s not like they were going to have the Grammys and not have a nominated, popular artist perform. Plus she’s clearly in the position to pick and choose. It’s apparent that it wasn’t about highlighting the movement but about highlighting HER. As one of music’s most passive-aggressive attention-seekers, this was just an opportunity for her to have another “Look at me! I’m so great” while her psycho fans ate it out of her hands. Gospel is supposed to be devoid of vanity after all.
BONUS: This isn’t the first time an awards show chose Beyonce over lesser known artists to appease the viewership and maybe themselves. Remember Oscars 2005? Beyonce inexplicably performed 3 of the 5 nominated songs, including Vois sur ton chemin from Les Choristes, a song DESIGNED to be sung by a choral ensemble since the film is about a young children’s choir. Instead of having original vocalists, Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc perform their version, they got Beyonce backed by the American Boychoir. The botched French accent is not even the worst part:
To back up my attention-seeker accusation, I want you to pay close attention at 1:20. The kids get only a few seconds of the song to themselves and she decides to melisma over them, couldn’t even let them have their moment.