Groundbreaking Grammys wedding spotlights celebrity

Thirty-three couples varying in race and sexual orientation exchanged wedding vows in front of millions of people they’d never met. Queen Latifah presided over the marriages accompanied by the sweet sound of “Same Love” performed by Madonna alongside Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The actual ceremony lasted under a minute.Yes, that’s what really happened at the 2014 Grammy Awards. The unexpected nuptials spurred a flurry of reactions, from angry rants to happy tears and utter worship. The marriages themselves, performed to take on “a humanitarian issue … not a political issue,” according to Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, indicate a leap in American popular culture. That same-sex couples wedded on national TV to mostly widespread support demonstrates a redefinition of our boundaries as a society, and that’s beautiful. The sheer fact that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” a song touting marriage equality from a straight man’s perspective, is well-accepted enough to make the Top 40 charts is remarkable. I respect Macklemore’s effort to promote equality. But all that notoriety doesn’t shake away the looming sense of insincerity that crept up on me throughout the performance. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not Queen Latifah or Macklemore or Madonna with her pimp cane and cowboy getup. They’re all just people whose celebrity has gifted them a degree of power, and they’re using it to communicate with us. What bothers me is that the focus of the event was on the celebrities instead of the people we really should have been rooting for: you know, those 66 people who got married? Of course, it was the Grammys, a celebration of music and celebrity and fashion wrapped into one, but I do think that 33 weddings warrant a little more screen time than a few snippets you might blink and miss. These weddings pack the political punch of a Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip combined with the sentimental pull of Kanye West’s 2009 Taylor Swift bashing at the Video Music Awards. The weddings are different from other notable live TV incidents because they were highly staged. The Grammys meticulously orchestrated this event – right down to the white chapel-inspired stage – with a statement in mind. But the strongest initial statement I felt pushed to draw from the whole ordeal was something along the lines of, “Wow, these celebrities are good people for supporting marriage equality.” The event felt like a celebration of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ song (which is more a repetition of clichés than groundbreaking in itself) and the cherry on top of their four Grammy wins. It should have celebrated those 33 individual couples, gay or straight. Instead, the couples themselves seemed like pawns in a much larger scheme. Maybe I’m just impatient with our progress. The performer on that stage who really shone for me was Mary Lambert, the openly lesbian singer who performs the chorus of “Same Love”: “I can’t change, even if I tried.” Maybe I’m just impatient for the day when, instead of listening to a straight man express the dreams and voices of the LGBTQ-plus community on such a weighty stage, we can listen to raw music whose point of view comes from the heart of the issue. When the face of musical celebrity changes, there will be no questioning sincerity anymore.