In an awards season full of gestures and platitudes in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, many of us wondered how the music industry’s biggest night would acknowledge an issue that has also plagued its ranks.
2017 was the year of both a sexual-assault-case win by superstar Taylor Swift and the start of ongoing sexual assault accusations against music mogul Russell Simmons. But only a brief year before, a judge had ruled against pop star Kesha in her own exhaustive sexual abuse trial in favor of Sony Music and her alleged abuser, producer Dr. Luke.
In this watershed moment, what would the music industry have to offer when its own moment of reckoning has so far seemed muted, at best? This was the concern shared by Voices in Entertainment, a grassroots group initiated by female music execs concerned that the movement wasn’t effectively reaching the music industry. Their first initiative? An email encouraging Grammy Awards attendees to wear white roses, in what would hopefully become the music industry’s version of the #TimesUp blackout on the Golden Globes red carpet.
But while there were many white roses and #TimesUp pins among the designer finery on the Grammys red carpet, the most powerful moment of the night would be onstage. During her introduction of what would be an emotional performance by Kesha, musician and actress Janelle Monáe gave a compelling speech, reminding the audience assembled at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and abroad:
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. 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.
And to those who would dare try to 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. And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo a culture that does not serve us well.
It was a Grammys moment well worth remembering, and “We come in peace, but we mean business” are words we won’t be surprised to hear become a common phrase within the #TimesUp moment.
While we’re already ready to say it with our chests, in our fast-fashion culture, we’re sure it’ll only be a matter of hours before we can do so. But while we ponder our new catchphrase, let’s not lose the import of Monáe’s words. Because we may come in peace—but we definitely did not come to play.