Why did the Grammys let Sam “Satan” Smith troll America?
What’s the best way to piss off half of America in under five minutes?
It would be hard to beat what the Grammys did last night when they pigtailed, face-filled Madonna featured non-binary singer Sam Smith – who first came out as gay, then fluid, and now asks to be called ‘they’ – to perform a duet of a song called ‘Unholy’, with a transgender artist named Kim Petras, in which Smith dressed up as Satan with a red tunic, hat and horns while the dancers performed a ritual of devil worship around him, as ‘They’ and Petras sang the story of a married couple who leave their children at home to commit adultery.
Oh, and then revealing that it was all sponsored by Viagra maker Pfizer!
“If they call you shocking, outrageous, awkward, problematic, provocative or dangerous,” Madonna told the crowd, sounding increasingly like a balmy version of Wildenstein’s bride, “you’re definitely onto something.”
What if they – okay, me… – just called you Madonna, an awkward, embarrassing shambles of a once-great pop star, now better suited for annual Halloween appearances?
What if they – OK, me again… – think that Sam ‘Satan’ Smith’s desperation for attention is now fueled by a demented desire to be just as pathetically vulgar and repulsive as shamefully aging Material Girl?
I wouldn’t go as far as Senator Ted Cruz who tweeted about Smith’s performance, “That’s…that’s…bad.”
But judging by the instant furor that erupted on social media, I suspect that many of his fellow Texans, and many of the other 210 million Christians in America, will have been very offended by this deliberate mockery of their Christian beliefs.
Petras made no secret that that was the intention, saying: ‘It’s a way of not being able to live the way people might want you to live because as a trans person I’m already not at all wanted in religion. So, we were doing a take on that, and I was kind of the hell-keeper Kim.
When they finished their inflammatory act, host Trevor Noah pretended to be on the phone with his mum, saying: ‘No mum, that wasn’t the real devil…yes, you warned me about of Hollywood….”
Then he turned to the audience and joked, “She says she’ll pray for all of us.”
I don’t know if Noah’s mom will say any prayers, though she probably should say one that her son gets a whole lot funnier than he was last night before his career as an awards host came to a halt suddenly without laughing.
But I do know that this whole unedifying stunt was meant to do nothing more than needlessly enrage large swaths of a country already bitterly divided by toxic political partisanship.
Someone who seemed to understand this was Ben Affleck, sitting with a forced half-smile next to his new wife Jennifer Lopez as Noah threw in his lame religious gags.
In fact, every time the TV cameras fell on the movie star’s face, he looked more and more miserable.
As “music’s greatest night” dragged on and on, Affleck’s exhausted eyes locked on the kind of expression normally only seen in hostage videos.
Meanwhile, J-Lo was giggling, hooting, clapping and fidgeting like a hyperactive Labrador, absolutely adoring her.
“Ben Affleck, blink if you’re okay,” one worried fan tweeted.
But who can blame him?
The entire night was not only too long, it was also entwined with what now seem to be the three mandatory ingredients of the awards ceremony: absurdity, political virtue and hypocrisy.
The absurdity came from the likes of Harry Styles who looked like he was wrapped in a giant piece of Christmas tinsel and sang like I sang at my family’s festive karaoke contest after lunch – this which is not a compliment.
The signal for virtue came when First Lady Jill Biden appeared on stage to present an Iranian singer with an award for his song which has become an anthem of protest in the repressed regime.
And then there was the hypocrisy.
Beyonce has become the biggest Grammy winner in history with a bag of awards for her album Renaissance (Act 1) which has been hailed as an “LGBTQ+ battle cry”.
“I would like to thank the queer community for your love,” she said in her tearful acceptance speech.
Bey previously said her mission with the record was to create a “safe place, a place without judgement…a place to scream, to break free, to feel freedom.”
It’s all very commendable, to the point where she then accepted a $24 million fee to perform two weeks ago at a hotel launch in Dubai, where it’s illegal to be gay, and neglected to sing any of his pro-LGBTQ+ songs on Renaissance for fear he would offend his payers.
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Beyonce is a brilliantly talented superstar, but it was ridiculously breathtaking and a huge kick in the teeth of the “queer community” that had shown her such love.
I much preferred the usually blunt honesty of Ozzy Osbourne, who wasn’t there and sent a producer to deliver his 7-word acceptance speech: “I love you all and f*** off.”
I’m all for the Grammys celebrating the best music of the year, and being a little nervous the way they do, and last night’s show was a superbly produced, if overly extended, gig.
But why troll America’s heart so blatantly in the process?