c/o Frederic J. Brown

c/o Frederic J. Brown

In a cross talk, two writers sit down to discuss a book, movie, TV show, or piece of art they both feel strongly about. Sometimes they disagree; other times, they’re in perfect harmony. Here, Opinion Editor Zara Skolnik and Assistant Features Editor Lyah Muktavaram sat down to talk about the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, which highlighted recordings, artists, and compositions produced from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 15, 2023. The Grammys took place on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024 and were hosted by Trevor Noah.

Lyah Muktavaram: I’ll be honest, this was the first Grammys I’ve ever watched. I’m not claiming to be an art or music connoisseur by any means, but I did think that this was particularly entertaining. I have thoughts.

Zara Skolnik: Me too. I am definitely not tapped into the Grammys discourse. However, I do have some highlights I would like to talk about. 

LM: Tell me about your first impressions. 

ZS: I liked the performances. Billie Eilish sang “What Was I Made For” and Olivia Rodrigo sang “Vampire,” and I was impressed by those. A highlight for me was Celine Dion being the award presenter for Album of the Year and Taylor Swift winning that. Celine Dion being the presenter and having Stiff Person Syndrome was pretty remarkable. She has five Grammys of her own, and Stiff Person Syndrome affects one or two people out of a million, so it’s extremely rare and honorable that she was able to come to the Grammys.

LM: I really appreciated Luke Combs and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” I’m more familiar with Luke Combs’ rendition of the song, but it was great to see Chapman, the original artist, collaborate with Combs. 

My first impressions were generally really positive. I enjoyed Karol G’s acceptance speech when she won her first Grammy. I’m a huge fan of her, and my entire family is too, so it was super exciting to see her on the stage.

ZS: What did you think of Taylor Swift’s album announcement?

LM: I was shocked. I’m friends with a few hardcore Swifties, and they were freaking out. It was crazy to see it happen live. What did you think? 

ZS: I was expecting her to announce reputation (Taylor’s Version), but then when she announced her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, I was like, “Oh, this is an interesting name.” I’m wondering what it’s going to sound like. I did see a couple of YouTube reels about the fact that if she hadn’t won Album of the Year, she would have announced this new album on her Tokyo leg of the Eras Tour.

LM: I’ve heard a few people talk about how maybe it wasn’t the most appropriate choice for Taylor Swift to release her album there and how it outshined other female performers. SZA was the most nominated person, but no one really seems to be talking about that because Taylor Swift announced her album. 

ZS: Definitely. I think that because the Taylor Swift culture is so huge, everything she does is always taken out of proportion. For her to announce this new album—which is a big deal for any artist, but it’s an even bigger deal because it’s Taylor Swift—kind of takes away from the success of the other female artists at the Grammys. 

What did you think of Jay Z winning Dr. Dre’s Global Impact Award? 

LM: I think his speech was somewhat controversial, but I also think it needed to be said. The Grammys and other music and art awards have this reputation of being pretty prejudiced, and Jay Z highlighting the discrimination that Black performers and other performers of color face at the Grammys was super important. He mentioned that Beyoncé has won the most Grammys, but she’s never won an Album of the Year Award. I think it was important to recognize that while we’re moving forward and recognizing Black voices, we still have a long way to go.

ZS: Yeah, and the fact that he brought his 12-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, on the stage with him. I don’t know if this was necessarily his intention, but I felt that it sent some messaging out about how he wants to make future generations have equal opportunities.

LM: Did you see SZA’s MasterCard commercial? 

ZS: I didn’t. How was that? 

LM: SZA gave us a little sneak peek of her new song “Saturn” in her MasterCard commercial. I will say it was a pretty well-done commercial. Typically during the commercial breaks, I’ll just go get food or that sort of thing, but it kind of seemed like she was performing it as a song instead of an advertisement. It was also extremely entertaining.

What are your thoughts on Taylor Swift winning Album of the Year?

ZS: To say it bluntly, I did not want her to win Album of the Year. I think SZA should have won Album of the Year for SOS. I feel like that album has a diversity of sounds. With Midnights, I feel like I’m hearing similar songs played over and over again with similar themes. I think SZA was more deserving of that award. 

LM: I would agree with that. I think SOS was such an iconic album. Songs like “Kill Bill,” “Snooze,” and “Nobody Gets Me” are some of my favorite songs. And as you said, the album itself is very diverse, whereas Midnights is kind of the same theme and the same tune throughout.

Okay, this was both of our first Grammys. Do you have any takeaways? Would you watch the Grammys again?

ZS: I’m definitely feeling like I should watch the Grammys again next year. The political and social conversation that this awards show can spark is an important enough reason for me to watch the Grammys again next year. 

LM: Yeah, I would agree. I don’t think it’s quite what I was expecting, but in a good way. I liked the social commentary intertwined with the tribute songs and the other performances. The entire thing was super well done. I think Trevor Noah did a great job of hosting, and I will definitely be watching next year.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Lyah Muktavaram can be reached at lmuktavaram@wesleyan.edu

Zara Skolnik can be reached at zskolnik@wesleyan.edu.

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