The former First Lady showed up to support her “girls”.
Women have been creating excellent music for as long as men have, so it came as a bit of a surprise when in 2018 Recording Academy president Neil Portnow called on women to “step up” if they wanted to win more awards.
His remarks, in response to #GrammysSoMale, caused outrage, with women pointing out they have been stepping up for years.
But perhaps the best rebuke to Portnow’s remarks came during this year’s Grammy Awards, which are run by the Recording Academy, when some of music’s most successful and influential women were joined by one of the world’s most admired women to talk about women’s voices in music.
In a surprise appearance, Former First Lady Michelle Obama joined Grammy Awards host Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Jada Pinkett Smith during the opening of this year’s ceremony.
The five shared personal anecdotes about how music has changed their lives and empowered them as women.
Obama, who was greeted with cheers and applause as she began to speak and had to tell the audience “we got a show to do”, said: “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side, to the ‘who run the world’ songs that fuelled me through this last decade, music has always helped me to tell my story, and I know that’s true for everybody here.
“Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves – our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in.
“Music shows us that all of it matters, every story within every voice, every note within every song – is that right ladies?”
Obama also shared a picture of the group on her Instagram afterwards, saying: “A big part of friendship is showing up for your girls - whether that’s for a birthday, a quick catch-up after work, or a major milestone.”
Lady Gaga, who kicked off the segment, said that music helped her fight back against negative comments, and referred to her fans, who are known as Little Monsters.
“They said I was weird, that my look, that my choices, that my sound wouldn’t work,” she said. “But music told me not to listen to them. Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice and my soul, and it led me to all of you and to my Little Monsters who I love so much.”
Lopez said that growing up in the Bronx, music of all types gave her a reason to dance.
She continued: “It kept me moving from the block to the big stages and even bigger screens. It reminds me where I come from, but it also reminds me of all the places that I can go. Music has always been the one place we can all feel truly free.”
Pinkett Smith said that “we express our pain, power and progress through music - whether we’re creating it, or just appreciating it”.
She continued: “But here’s what I know: every voice we hear deserves to be honoured and respected.”
We can all agree with Obama that that’s absolutely right.
Images: Getty Images for The Recording Academy