flamygrant / YouTube

As awards season approaches, the Grammys have moved to push drag queen Flamy Grant’s album Bible Belt Baby from the Contemporary Christian category to the Best Pop Vocal Album category. The Recording Academy, which oversees submissions to the Grammys and determines their eligibility for certain categories, released a statement saying the move was due to the explicit lyrics in the album. “Re-categorizing recordings with explicit language/content has been a standard practice for the Gospel & CCM genre committee, given that the Gospel & CCM Field consists of lyrics-based categories that reflect a Christian worldview,” wrote the Recording Academy. The album’s song, “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab,” includes an explicit word for male genitalia and numerous other obscenities, including the f— and a–. 

Grant, whose real name is Matthew Blake, took to Facebook to lament the change. “I know next-to-nothing about the Grammy nomination process, so when we saw you couldn’t vote for it in best contemporary Christian [music] album, I just assumed that was the end of the road,” he wrote. He then stated that he received a call from an Academy member who was “excited to vote for me in best pop vocal album.” “Pop music is included in the contemporary Christian category. The only logical conclusion I can come to is that someone in the Academy decided my album qualifies as pop, but not as Christian,” he wrote. Rolling Stone’s Ethan Millman stated the change was a disadvantage to Blake because he would “now be measured against the likes of the world’s biggest superstars as opposed to a smaller niche of peers from the Christian music community.”

Blake also compared himself to the prophets Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, saying he identified “with the obscene ones,” noting how Isaiah “spent three years naked to grab the attention of an unjust society.” The story of Isaiah preaching naked is found in Isaiah 20:1-4 and there is some debate as to whether the “naked” used in the passage refers to complete nudity or Isaiah wandering in a loin cloth of some type. According to the passage, God instructed Isaiah to do so to demonstrate how God would allow the Assyrians to overtake the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Blake stated that “queer Christians” were “among the most faithful because of the cruelty we must navigate.” “If a queer person still identifies as a believer in 2023, that’s a faith no straight person can begin to understand,” he wrote.

He also defended his explicit lyrics in “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab,” call it “the most biblical song I’ve ever written.” “I intentionally chose words like c— and f— when writing ‘Esther, Ruth, and Rahab’ because it is an indictment of Christian culture that elevates men while diminishing women and queer folks (not to mention people of color, folks with disabilities, and other marginalized groups),” he wrote. “My faith journey has been long and difficult, but I’m still here, still taking up space in Christianity, still advocating for the inclusion of queer kids like me who grow up in these churches that ignore and oppress them.” He then faulted the Grammys for “religious gatekeeping.” “I’m very used to gatekeepers in the worlds of church and Christian music — that’s a big part of why I’ve dedicated myself to this work. But I never expected to encounter religious gatekeeping at the Grammys.”

Blake has faced some criticism from the Christian music industry, with Skillet’s John Cooper recently criticizing his attendance at the Dove Awards. “Obviously, they’re just trying to get attention, they’re trying to disrupt, and they’re going about it in a clever way,” he said of Blake’s attendance with queer artist Semler and former Caedmon’s Call frontman Derek Webb. Cooper was also critical of the “silence” of Christian outlets against Blake. In a recent podcast episode on his “Cooper Stuff” podcast, he wrote, “Where is the solidarity from the industry, or from the Christian platforms? They are nowhere to be heard. The truth will set us free, but much of American Christianity believes that the truth is impolite. I’m sick of the wimpy, weak, and wokeness in our churches!” 

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