Chicks With Balls: Why the Grammys Mattered This Year.Your friendly Jews tend not to comment on the day’s events, following the frenzied calendars of publicists and TV producers. Do you expect a special Valentine’s Day entry, bubbling with cinnamon-scented love tips and bittersweet reminiscences of our fumbling, horny youth? You’ll be sorely disappointed, my friend. We barely even remember when the high holidays fall (thank goodness for that free calendar from the delicatessen, with its towering, food-porn photo of a pastrami sandwich).
And of all the greeting-card hypefests and pop-cultural ephemera about which we’re disinclined to blog, awards shows probably elicit the most resounding cry of “feh.” Or is it “meh”? They’re both good. But handicapping Oscar races and the sartorial digressions of cousin Selma are not our bag.
Well, that’s a lie – they are. We consume record-breaking quantities of sparkling wine, laugh openly at Teleprompter gaffes and rend our garments in lamentation when an overly self-serious, middlebrow epic wins Best Picture (as it usually does). We just don’t do these things in a public forum, because it’s unseemly. And because we’re too drunk to type.
So why are your smokin’ hot Semite pals devoting this steamin’ hot slab of online real estate to the guitar-slinging clown-off known as the Grammys? Because this year they made us think about how pop culture can actually make a difference — not by warbling sleepy ballads about suffering in the Third World, but by telling right-wing assholes to fuck off at the top of one’s lungs.
If you think we’re talking about the Dixie Chicks, you’re right. The point is this: They were fully vindicated after speaking the truth in 2003 and being shat on by a coterie of cowardly, venal, mendacious power brokers from Nashville to D.C.
They were tarred as Osama-coddling America-haters by the bloviating crypto-fascists of Fox News, shunned by the craven bootlickers in the country establishment (down whose collective throat Karl Rove’s titanium phallus was irrevocably jammed), quashed by the evangelical Resmuglicans who own the media conglomerate Clear Channel (ditto re: Rovecock) and — most painfully — pelted with illiterate death threats from mouth-breathing jingoists belonging (ever so loosely) to the “general public.”
It was an ordeal no one should have to endure, let alone three smart, lovely babes who sing, write and play like angels.
Now, of course, the Christian Louboutin is very much on the other foot.
About 70% of the public now shares the Bush-related shame that Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines so bravely voiced in 2003. Everybody wants this abomination of a war to be over. And the Chicks’ Grammy windfall – following a performance of the defiant smash hit “Not Ready to Make Nice” that gave us Jewy goose bumps – was a fiery rebuke to the cabal of creeps who once had this nation by the throat and who are now, we prefer to believe, scuttling back to their caves and bunkers in fear.
It wasn’t just Maines’ full-throated plaint about the despair of getting heartland hate letters but the look on her face when she sang “It turned my whole world around/And I kinda like it.” Hot.
Considering that most of the aforementioned Chicks-bashing ghouls are also casually anti-Semitic fuckwits, this is indisputably great news for the chosen peeps. But the VHJ are about humanity, baby. And this year’s Grammys offered several examples of humanity’s nascent comeback against religio-political tyrants.
Does that sound extreme, overreaching, pompous? Good; we’re not the freakin’ New Yorker. But as the Chicks say (and as we tunelessly wail along, with our earbuds jammed tight), we’re not ready to back down.
Pop culture — our pop culture — is routinely derided as a cesspool of iniquity, a pagan temple erected to the fleeting gods of fame and beauty. And much of this is deserved. But our songs and movies and stories and blogs can also, from time to time, shove a righteous thunderbolt up the oppressor’s ass.
To be sure, the Chicks are one such pop-cultural missile, but the political might and timeliness of their message shouldn’t entirely eclipse another powerful female presence. Shakira’s Grammy-night performance of “Hips Don’t Lie” (featuring a superfluous Wyclef) was volcanic, and these Jews could feel it reverberating around the world.
The song doesn’t really “say” much — it’s a sexy come-on — but that’s often when pop culture is truly powerful. The impact of Shakira’s performance was, in fact, all in the hips. Her joyous gyrations took place against a backdrop of Eastern tropes (she’s of Colombian-Lebanese descent, and her name means "graceful" in Arabic); each undulation of that mesmerizing torso seemed to strike at ayatollahs and Elmer Gantrys around the world.
Sex-positive, life-affirming, joyously, loudly female, Shakira’s performance was not a lecture but a burst of sunlight streaming into every moldy, woman-hating sanctum. Hips don’t lie, and that’s why hypocrites hate them.
So these Jews, so often mortified by the worst of pop culture, today celebrate the best. Because sometimes the best way to strike back at the legions of soul-dead power mongers who tell women to shut up, pray up and cover up is with a big chorus and a slammin’ beat.