The Grammys stirred up some serious controversy on Sunday, Feb. 8, when the show sent a message that many saw as hypocritical.
In the midst of the celebratory soirée, music’s biggest night took a somber turn with a segment dedicated to domestic violence awareness. The messaging was introduced with a recorded clip from President Barack Obama.
“Together we can change our culture for the better by ending violence against women and girls,” POTUS said in the video before he shed light on the scary statistics regarding women and rape and domestic violence. “It’s not okay and it has to stop. Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes and get us thinking and talking about what matters.”
President Obama was followed in the show by a woman named Brooke Axtell. A survivor of domestic abuse, Axtell spoke live onstage inside Los Angeles’ Staples Center about her experience and introduced Katy Perry to sing her emotional ballad “By the Grace of God.”
While the message itself was well-received, it was equally criticized for its placement in a show that celebrates known transgressors — namely Chris Brown and R. Kelly. Many viewers took to Twitter in the midst of the segment to express their disbelief that the same show was warning against domestic abuse and sexual misconduct while honoring both men.
“But Chris Brown and R Kelly. Are both nominated tonight….” tweeted Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay. “That is to say important and necessary message but as with similar NFL messages, heal thyself first.”
Pitchfork editor Jessica Hopper added, “Yeah, good job standing up to rape and domestic violence, Grammys, R. Kelly and Chris Brown noms really showed where it’s at.”
The Bachelor alum Jaclyn Swartz jibed, “Hope Chris Brown is listening!! So fun! #grammys.”
R. Kelly, who was nominated for Best R&B Performance at the Grammys for his collaboration with Jennifer Hudson “It’s Your World,” chose not to comment on the chatter. The singer, 48, who was absent from the show, famously faced numerous accusations of sexual misconduct in the early 2000s and was beat out at the awards show by Beyonce and Jay Z‘s “Drunk in Love.”
Brown, 25, attended the 57th Annual Grammys, but was not shown on camera during the domestic violence interlude that featured ex Rihanna‘s close pal Perry. He became infamous for his pre-Grammys scuffle with then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, that left the singer with gruesome bruises and Brown with a subsequent court case.
Nominated at Sunday’s show for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for “New Flame” and Best Urban Contemporary Album for X, Brown reportedly responded to a tweet about the hypocrisy before quickly deleting his defense.
Musician Alex Gaskarth tweeted a reference to the awareness campaign’s name of “It’s On Us,” writing, “Wow. Unbelievable. Maybe #ItsOnUs to not invite people like @chrisbrown to the fcking Grammys. Am I wrong?”
Though he has since deleted the tweet, Brown allegedly responded, writing, “You sound really perfect brother… How can I get those VIP tickets to the pearly gates bro.. Seems like u have it down.”
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Brown did go on to tweet, “Hold your head up and be Great!”
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