A Jesuit’s Ballot for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards

Thomas Hawk / flickr

The Recording Academy has yet again lost my ballot for the Grammy Awards in the mail. Thankfully, I’m willing to share some of my notes on several of the nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Perhaps, some Jesuit guidance will help the voting members.

Record of the Year Nominations:

“Hello” by: Adele

“Formation” by: Beyoncé

“7 Years” by: Lukas Graham

“Work” by: Rihanna, featuring Drake.

“Stressed Out” by: Twenty One Pilots.

And … My Winner Is: “Hello” by: Adele

Who doesn’t love to belt your heart out with Adele? Certainly, her song “Hello” deserves recognition for its ability to be sung at high volumes in the privacy of your car on the way to and from work. Yet, besides its shower-anthem quality, the song hits a theme worth recognizing: reconciliation.

The song begins with a double acknowledgement: that there is “a difference between us,” and that even if “time’s supposed to heal ya … I ain’t done much healing.” In that tension, Adele belts out a “hello from the other side,” demonstrating her desire to reach across their differences. She acknowledges that it’s hard, “but at least [she] can say that [she’s] tried.” The peace and reconciliation Adele seeks is not some sentimental recreation of the past, but rather a resolution of the remaining tension between them. It’s healing, not denial.

Adele’s desire for reconciliation, conversation, and healing seem so apt for our current national and international tenor. Adele’s “Hello” calls us towards a spirit of reconciliation and healing, and that should earn her Record of the Year.

 

Album of the Year Nominations:

25 by: Adele

Lemonade by: Beyoncé

Purpose by: Justin Bieber

Views by: Drake

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by: Sturgill Simpson

And… My Winner Is: Lemonade by: Beyoncé

Revolution occur within hearts before it occurs in cultures and societal structures, so I am struck by the power within Beyoncé’s album Lemonade which seeks both kinds of revolution. It’s an album in the true sense: a cohesive and directed whole, rather than a random accumulation of songs. Each song on the album has a music video and these piece together to form a feature-length narrative.  The combined power of the lyrics, imagery and symbolism aim forcefully at empowerment over racial and gender injustices.

There is a raw power present in the lyrics, and often a raw content, wherein Beyoncé repurposes the language of oppressive structures and prejudices into a new expression of power.

In her music video for “All Night,” Beyoncé claims that “with every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.” Certainly, there is an honest suffering acknowledged, but somehow she finds strength; even more, she finds a “remedy” by recycling the pain into power. We see this turn in “Formation,” where she takes negative self-images caused by racial prejudice and re-owns them: “I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” What was an insult by the dominant culture, she owns as a preference. The linkage between the nose and the Jackson Five also hints towards commercial and cultural success. It all points towards a revolution of hearts.

I’m not usually a fan of Beyoncé’s music, and Lemonade is a bit more explicit in language and content than I am terribly comfortable with. Yet, her statements towards justice—particularly in liberating women and black America—represent a battle cry for revolution within hearts and minds. For that, her album merits recognition.

 

Song of the Year Nominations:

“Formation” by: Beyoncé

“Hello” by: Adele

“I Took a Pill In Ibiza” by: Mike Posner

“Love Yourself” by: Justin Bieber

“7 Years” by: Lukas Graham

And… My Winner Is: “7 Years”—Lukas Graham

In Lukas Graham’s “7 years,” the sing‐along–friendly meter and rhythm can hide the deep struggle to capture and hold gratitude for people in our lives. The song retraces a life that has past and the hope of what the future holds. The song does this, not simply recounting events or even struggles, but by capturing the voices and advice of his parents: to find good people to hold onto in life—friends and lovers. At different ages and different challenges within the song, it’s those people who help him along. They help him make life worthwhile, and they help him make the world warmer.

There is a gratitude for those people and moments which define his life. At times it’s a bittersweet gratitude for those he’s “had to leave behind,” and for that he sings, “My brother I’m still sorry.” Yet, even the pain holds a bit of fondness, as it reminds him of those people who supported him along the way. It’s a beautiful struggle: to move on and to still hold our past relationships as treasures. The song’s rhythm invites us to sing, but also invites us to remember the progression of time, our own progression through life. Reflecting with him on these stories—and our stories—we continue “learning about life,” remembering our past gifts and eagerly anticipating the gifts still to come.

Graham beautifully intertwines the gratitude for our past with a renewed hope for our futures. For inviting us to participate in the joy of this insight,  “7 Years” warrants Song of the Year.

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