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Op-ed: The Gay Grammys

Op-ed: The Gay Grammys

Op-ed: The Gay Grammys

This year's Grammy Awards celebrated difference and "Same Love!"

Keith Urban had tears in his eyes. And so did gay America.

The Grammys always put on a show, but there had never been anything like what happened last night at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Near the end of the nearly four-hour program Queen Latifah came out in a gorgeous black gown and introduced rap artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to sing their hit "Same Love" which had won the duo the coveted "Best New Artist" award. The duo, strong supporters of marriage equality, said the song was about equality under the law for everyone.

"Same Love" has been called the gay marriage anthem since the song debuted last year. Mary Lambert was there in a red gown, her tattooed left arm on full display, singing the song’s haunting lesbian refrain. Madonna, a long-time fave of the gay community, joined her, dressed in a white suit and white cowboy hat and sporting a cane due to an injury.

But it wasn’t the song’s emotional rendering by Macklemore that brought Urban to tears and the audience to its feet. It wasn’t seeing longtime-Grammy legend Madonna sing "Open Your Heart." It wasn’t the wildly gorgeous backdrop of stained glass windows. It was the 34 couples–lesbian, gay, straight, Latino, Asian, black, white–putting rings on each others fingers when Queen Latifah instructed them to do so.

The mass wedding wasn’t a prop or a punking of the audience. It was real and it was...amazing. It also would not have been possible a year ago, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling overturning Prop 8, which had stymied same-sex marriages in California for five years.

Queen Latifah had been sworn in as a temporary commissioner and deputized by Los Angeles County for the state of California earlier in the day, so the marriages she performed were all legal. Backstage after the awards Queen Latifah joked with reporters, "I had to be sworn in as an official. I’m not a minister. If you come see me before 12 o’clock tonight, I got your back. After that, you’ll have to take the regular route."

Lewis also spoke to reporters after the show and told the New York Times, "[This] will be in our minds the ultimate statement of equality, that all the couples are entitled to the same exact thing."

No wonder Urban was in tears.

The landmark ceremony brought the house down. I live-tweeted the Grammys and the responses I received to my tweets about the wedding were myriad favorites and replies as simple as just *tears*.

Imagine telling your family and friends Madonna sang at your wedding and Beyonce, Jay-Z, Daft Punk, Lorde and Willie Nelson were all there, too?

There may be a Grammy Awards show in the future that tops last night’s for emotional drama, but we can’t imagine what could top the weddings.

The entire night had been one of extraordinary performances and surprise wins. There had been other emotional moments–Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited for a lifetime achievement award and playing together onstage while Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, widows of the late George Harrison and John Lennon looked on. Sean Lennon was also there with his mother.

A craggy-faced trio of country legends, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard, got a standing ovation as did renowned classical pianist Lang Lang playing with...wait for it, Metallica.

Oh yes–it was that kind of night, where each thing topped the one before it, from gowns to performances to emotional highs.  

Legendary singer songwriter Carole King played piano and sang with nominee Sara Bareilles, whose song "Brave" has been an anti-bullying anthem for LGBT youth. Those two were introduced by long-time LGBT ally Cyndi Lauper, whose queer musical Kinky Boots won the Grammy for Musical Theater Album.

The show had opened as it always does with something to take the audience’s breath away. Last night it was the extraordinary Beyonce, who has been tearing it up with "Drunk in Love." If there had been an award for hottest female performer, she would have won, hands down. She gave an extraordinary performance–sexy, edgy and oh-so-hot in a barely there costume that was primarily her endless legs and new, hip, short hair which she used to great theatrical effect. She was joined onstage by her fully tuxed-out husband, hip hop rapper Jay-Z.

Another wild moment at the awards was the arrival of P!nk, who came in singing her hit "Try" from more than 100 feet above the audience. P!nk is known for doing her own stunts and last night was no different. In a Cirque de Soleil acrobatic turn, the singer–legs spread in the widest of splits–landed on the stage after the amazing stunt only to follow it up by lifting Fun front man Nate Ruess with whom she sang "Just Give Me a Reason" after perhaps the fastest costume changes in Grammy (or any) history.

If Beyonce deserved an award for bringing the heat, P!nk deserved one for bringing her own stunts while singing and never missing a breath or a beat. Any performer who says they can’t sing and dance? Watch her.
P!nk would be perfect for NBC’s upcoming live show of Peter Pan. It’s so easy to imagine her swinging in singing "I’m Flying."

Another female singer who stole the crowd’s heart last night was country-crossover newcomer Kacey Musgraves who won Best Country Album for her album Same Trailer Different Park, edging out Taylor Swift’s chart-topper, Red. Swift had given an impressive performance at the piano, her head whipping back and forth.
But it was Musgraves performance of what many say is the first gay-themed country hit, "Follow Your Arrow," which won Country Song of the Year, that brought the house down with her refrain: 
"Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that’s something you’re into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight"

There were also tributes to musical legends who died in 2013, but the most powerful came from actor Jared Leto, Oscar-nominated for his role as a transgender woman in the AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club. Leto recited lines from Lou Reed’s queer anthem of the 1970s, "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," in a tribute to the late singer songwriter.

Other big winners were the French duo Daft Punk, who won Record of the Year and Album of the Year and Best Pop Duo Performance along with their producer Pharell Williams, who wasn’t just behind their hit, "Get Lucky," but also behind one of the year’s catchiest and most controversial songs, "Blurred Lines." In another spectacular performance Pharell, Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder performed together.

The 17-year-old New Zealand sensation Lorde won Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for her fantastic song, "Royals." Her performance of the song was flawless. If Kacey Musgraves is the new Taylor Swift, Lorde may well be the new Katy Perry.

Only a night as full of incredible moments could knock Perry’s own extravagant performance out of the top five. But Perry took home a prize for the night: she caught one of the bouquets tossed into the crowd by the married couples. Perry, who has been dating John Mayer, posted a photo of herself with the bouquet of white roses on Instagram, saying, :Congrats to all the #samelove couples tonight. You had me in tears of joy for y’all! Also... Look who caught the bouquet!!! #okuuuurrrr."

LL Cool J, who did a magnificent job of hosting two years ago after the sudden death of Whitney Houston, was once again an amiable and engaging host, embracing everyone and setting an early tone for the night that was comfortable and welcoming. He joins the list of perfect awards-show hosts--Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Aisha Tyler--you want back next year.

The Grammys has often been a bit of a self-congratulatory snooze fest and also very very straight–but not this year. It was the year of the woman, the year of the gays, the year of the weddings. It was a thoroughly integrated evening. It was a spectacular and emotional evening, which signaled just how far lesbians and gay men have come. And it was so moving, it pushed thoughts of how far we have yet to go to the periphery. Our "Same-Love" was a chart topper–and brought even the strongest of straight men to tears.

Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and a contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review. She won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for historical/cultural fiction for From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth. Her novella, Ordinary Mayhem, won Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012. Her novel, After It Happened will be published in fall 2014. @VABVOX

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Victoria A. Brownworth