For a short time I was a member of the organization that gives the Grammys. Since the embossed lettering on the awards show invitation said it’d be several hundred dollars for one ticket, I thought, nah. Better use that for groceries and watch the telecast on TV. I try to catch it anyway ‘cause I love hearing live music. Sure, some of it is done to tracks but a lot of it is live – time to see what these nominees are really made of.
And mostly, they’re made of testosterone. I’ve got nothing against guy musicians. Some of my best friends – if you don’t mind me hauling out a cliché – are male musicians. They’ve been very supportive of my work and visa versa. However, as I watched musician after musician traipse across those Grammy stages I thought, where the hell are the women? Sure, we had Lady Gaga stomping around in her sexy rubber outfit and Miranda Lambert wobbling around on those impossibly high heels but where were the capable women musicians?
I’m not counting Lady Gaga’s eight measures (or whatever) on her piano. And yeah, Nora Jones was there. Singing. Why should she dirty her hands on a piano when she had two manly men strumming guitars on either side of her? (And one of them – Mayer, I’m looking at you – who had to carefully read the words from the teleprompter, looking like he’d rather be getting a root canal.)
Thank the deity-of-your-choice for Arcade Fire with several women in their band, and for Esperanza Spalding! Do you have to be a quirky indie band or a professor at Berklee to be included?
And don’t EVEN get me started on the clothing. Why is it that women are expected to wear tiny strips of clothing that barely cover the essentials (Lady Gaga was wearing pasties for godsake) and teeter around on shoes best used in a circus act, while the men are comfortably dressed in flat shoes, pants and casual shirts? Even tuxes are more comfortable than the average cocktail dress.
I know, why am I surprised? Mainstream music has always been full of half-dressed women. And really, I don’t fault Lady Gaga wearing whatever the hell she wants. But I want to see Bonnie Raitt blazing through some slide guitar or Alicia Keys pounding the ivories on an original song while wearing something they can sit down in and not reveal their dental work.
Obviously, sexism plays a part. Men still own the keys to much of the music industry. Most label heads, A&R people, producers, etc., are men. Sure there are women like Julie Greenwald, head of Atlantic Records; her label had several top ten albums in 2010, but with artists like the Zac Brown Band and Jay-Z. (See, you can look like Zac Brown if you’re a guy but if you’re a woman, you’d better look like Carrie Underwood.)
I also place the blame on women musicians. Feminists, before you lock me in a room where the only TV is playing pro golf, hear me out. When I go to open mikes it’s mostly men who perform. When I go to a jam, I’m sometimes the only woman or maybe, if I’m lucky, one of two or three women. My male students learn to play a few chords and they’re starting a band. Not so with many of my female students.
Women and girls, get out and play! I don’t care if you only know a few chords – did that stop Justin Bieber? I don’t care if your boyfriend laughs at you when you pick up your guitar. (And what are you doing with a loser who doesn’t respect you?) Play! Most open mike audiences are very supportive ’cause they know how it feels to face a microphone and warble out a new song. I’ve been at jams where the leader generously offered me a solo in every song even though some of them sounded like crap. I’ve attended wonderful music camps where there’s a big audience to cheer me on. Every time I learn something, even if it’s as simple as realizing that an F# in the key of C sounds weird.
Do what it takes and when you appear at the Grammys please wear shoes that won’t give you a nosebleed. It’ll only stain your t-shirt.
I could’ve rattled on about so much more but you didn’t sign up to read a book. I’ll address more in future blogs. How did you feel about the Grammys?