By VERONICA SPAGNA
The 2017 Brit awards took place last Wednesday in London and are Britain’s annual pop industry music awards, in other words, the British version of the Grammy’s. This year’s ceremony took an unexpected turn, as when it was time for the American singer Katy Perry to perform, the viewers were presented with a politically charged performance.
Katy Perry, a popular figure in the international world of pop music, performed her new single “Chained to The Rhythm” live at the Brit awards alongside Skip Marley, Bob Marley’s grandson.
The performance raised awareness on the importance of encouraging unity and stopping the hate. It had a lot to visually intake as it involved a lot of subtextual symbolism.
It is important for me to point out that even though the visual aspect of the performance already sent a powerful message, the lyrics really helped highlight and intensify the idea.
The performance started with rows of lit-up miniature houses held by backup dancers, seemingly portraying a pop-up neighborhood. Katy Perry wore a pinstripe pantsuit, she started walking among the houses singing, as the backup dancers dressed like homes moved around her.
As the performance continued, a dancing Skelton figure dressed in a black suit with a red tie entered on one side of the stage, simultaneously another dancing skeleton figure dressed in a red blazer and skirt entered on another side of the stage.
These two figures were quickly noticed to be representations of Donald Trump and Theresa May, the prime minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the conservative party. The two skeletons danced around the houses on stage and met in the front center of the platform. Skip Marley then came out to rap his verse.
The verse rapped by Marley in “Chained to the Rhythm” clearly refers to the lies and chaos brought by the political situation in the United States and invites the listeners to take a stand, referring to the people as lions. Donald Trump has attacked a variation of minorities and groups, threatening to build walls and making unacceptable generalizations leading to hate speech and intangible segregation of the people.
Skip Marley rapped:
It is my desire, Break down the walls to connect, inspire”
Ay, up in your high place, liars
Time is ticking for the empire
The truth they feed is feeble
As so many times before
They greed over the people
They stumbling and fumbling and we’re about to riot
They woke up, they woke up the lions
Towards the end of the performance the skeletons held hands, the act ended with the two singers holding hands together and pumping a fist in the air symbolizing taking a stand together and fighting back with nonviolence and unity.
I do believe that the lyrics do make the overall message incorporated in the performance stronger. Katy Perry clearly shared her concern to the people on how this situation cannot be ignored, but people are distracted by other things and if something isn’t done there will be consequences. This was the first verse:
Are we crazy?
Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white-picket fence
So comfortable, we live in a bubble, a bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, the trouble
Lately Katy Perry has been saying that she intends to make her pop music “purposeful.” Perry had never really made any political statements before the 2017 Grammy Awards, she has always been a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and actively campaigned for her when she was running for office.
If you didn’t watch the 2017 Grammy Awards, Katy Perry performed the same song with Skip Marley, also sending a message through symbolism and collaborating with the online No Hate Speech movement. The No Hate Speech movement is youth campaign for human rights online to reduce the acceptance levels of hate speech and to raise awareness on the impacts that hate speech has on society.
At the Grammy’s, she was striding around a home surrounded by picket fences on stage, wearing an armband with the word “Persist.” Ending the set with an image of the U.S. constitution projected on the screen and shouting “no hate.” Perry’s shouting of “no hate” is associated with the online No Hate Speech movement.
There were individuals who responded to these performances with aggravation, as they were a little irritated that politics was involved in this sort of scene at the Brit Awards. But personally, I think that people are not going deep enough in understanding the message behind the performance.
Some assumed Katy Perry was just trying to make Donald Trump and Teresa May scary or just intentionally mocking them.
The irritation of certain individuals to this politically charged performance highlights what Katy Perry and Skip Marley were trying to communicate, that we cannot live in a bubble and ignore what is happening around us.
The articles covering this performance were more focused on covering the act as a parody. At some point in the performances one of the backup dancers dressed as a house fell off stage. The news media refer to this dancer as Perry’s “New Left Shark,” because during her Super Bowl performance last year, one of her dancers wearing a shark costume forgot the moves and since then the dancer has become known as the “Left Shark.”
There were many articles that focused on how funny the backup dancer that fell off stage was and not enough coverage on Katy Perry’s association with the No Hate Speech movement.
Numerous news article titles referred to Katy Perry’s performance as funny and entertaining. Journalists focused on covering how Perry made fun of Donald Trump by making his skeleton figure dance on stage. I think that this type of media coverage is distracting from the actual message of the performance and that more attention should be given to its purpose.
I admire Katy Perry for taking a risk in performing her single “Chained to The Rhythm,” her intentions are good and eye opening. Although a big part of the news media portrayed the act as a parody and focused on its political orientation, it is beautiful to see how the performance went beyond politics and entertainment, encouraging unity and respect.