The 61st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony may have been less political than ever before, but that doesn’t mean it was entirely without politics.
In 2018, Hillary Clinton showed up on screen to read from Michael Wolff’s White House tell-all Fire and Fury. The appearance sparked backlash, so perhaps in an attempt to boost viewership, the 2019 Grammys had few political moments — except for a special guest at the beginning and the winner of song of the year.
Walking in with Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jennifer Lopez, former first lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance to much excitement. She couldn’t even finish a full sentence before she was drowned out by cheers. Obama has recently been on the book tour circuit for her memoir Becoming, which focuses some on her time as first lady, but also on subjects outside the political sphere: marriage and motherhood.
The biggest political statement of the night may have come from Childish Gambino, the stage name of rapper, actor, and comedian Donald Glover. The rapper won big for his song “This is America,” which took home Grammys for song of the year, record of the year, and best music video. The song made headlines last spring for its treatment of gun violence and racism in America. In what may or may not have been a political statement, Childish Gambino didn’t show up to collect his award.
Grammy viewership has been dropping since 2017, and 2019 was no exception. Fewer than 18 million people tuned into a performance that was more bland than in the past. It seems like the entertainment industry finally got the message that people are tired of having politics thrown into everything, but it’s possible that it’s swung too far in the other direction.
What remains to be seen is whether this new apolitical shtick will keep viewers tuned in.