Katy Perry Got Political at the Grammys & It Was Perfect
A few headlines today blared confusion over Katy Perry’s "surprisingly political" Grammys performance. Maybe that’s because Katy Perry and Skip Marley's new single "Chained to the Rhythm" had only been out for mere hours when she took to the stage to perform the track. Or perhaps it’s because we're just so used to the pop star singing sexy, playful pop while wearing cartoon-esque costumes. But if you listen to lyrics like "Living our lives through a lens/Trapped in our white picket fence ... So comfortable, we're living in a bubble, bubble/So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble" and "Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah/We think we're free," it's hard to imagine that the duo's performance would have been anything but politically-charged.
Perry summed it up for Access Hollywood before the show, explaining that the track is aimed at anyone who's "not awake" or who's downright "apathetic" about what's going on politically in our country and the world right now.
When she took to the stage, Perry was dressed in a Tom Ford-designed white pantsuit, which — despite also looking like Ellen Degeneres' entire wardrobe — was clearly a nod to the suffragette tribute made by many Hillary Clinton supporters last year. Perry also wore an arm band that stated "Persist," in a shout-out to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was silenced on the Senate floor last week for speaking out against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. Vogue.com also reports that she was wearing a Planned Parenthood pin.
The set for Perry and Marley's performance made a statement, as well. Perry initially appeared in a tiny house, wearing rose-colored glasses, singing behind a white picketed fence that grew in size around her. The fence turned into mirrors, and after the end of the track, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution was projected onto the set.
The politically-charged spectacle was definitely not what many Katy Perry fans are used to. But for anyone who wants to see Perry do an about face from politics and put out more bubblegum tracks about teenage dreams and kissing girls may be out of luck. “It’s a different just me… just pay close attention to the narrative," she told People before the show. "I’m so proud of it. I think it’s definitely a new era for me. I call it an era of purposeful pop.”
Perry’s determination to usher in this era of “purposeful pop” seems like a direct response to people who wag their tongues about celebrities sharing their thoughts on politics. But what those critics don't seem to understand is that many stars like Perry (and Meryl Streep and A Tribe Called Quest) are famous because they're artists. And just like doctors feel called to heal and lawyers aim to pursue justice, many artists feel they have a duty to connect with their audience and call attention to crucial issues facing society today. Not only are they entitled to reflect social and political consciousness in their work, but they add value to their work by doing so.
Jennifer Lopez pointed this out last night when she explained that the Grammys "is about music — the words and the voices. How they move us and inspire us and touch all of our lives. At this particular point in history, our voices are needed more than ever." She then paraphrased the Nobel prize-winning poet Toni Morrison, stating, "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal."
Katy Perry clearly agrees, and for using her art form to resist, she deserves a standing ovation.