After years of more or less increasing out-of-touchness, the Grammy Awards’ biggest asset remains their very institutional nature. So the cluelessly conservative dress code for last night’s awards show makes sense: This is supposed to be like the Oscars, a classy, old-school affair, not some anything-goes beatnik like those parvenu Golden Globes. And yet, as with any time tone-deaf authorities tell free-thinking people how to comport themselves, there were some exceptions to the Grammys’ uptight rules. Katy Perry’s hemispheric cleavage. Rihanna’s banned, barely veiled nipples.
Does Jack White’s blazing performance of “Love Interruption” and “Freedom at 21” belong on the list of Grammy rebellions? No side boob was exposed in his renditions of those two tracks, backed by his all-female and all-male bands, respectively. But many viewers, around the one-minute mark, could be forgiven for thinking they heard White and Peacocks singer Ruby Amanfu sing, “I want love to walk right up and bite me / Grab ahold of me and fuck me.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, a CBS official says the network had carefully vetted the performance and is certain the word sung was “fight.” We wouldn’t disagree, and that’s certainly how it is on the album, so there’s plausible deniability. In a way, though, the performance reveals how idiotic and superstitious our society’s hang-ups about magically taboo words always were in the first place. Look, White and Amanfu sang those words inches from each other’s faces, husky-voiced, with Amanfu’s fingers running across White’s shirt. Regardless of whether they actually sang “fight,” the meaning was clearly “fuck” all along. That’s freedom in any century.