You may have watched Eric Church’s performance of his 2014 hit ‘Give Me Back My Hometown’ on Sunday night at the Grammys and thought that was all there was to it. A performance of a Grammy-nominated song from a Grammy-nominated album (he lost both, to Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert respectively, but who’s counting). A slightly rough vocal performance on a stage that is probably too big for the song’s slow burn and unconventional structure.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
You see, behind Eric and his band was a large video screen, and on it was an array of footage set with a sepia tone. You might have dismissed it as just atmospheric nonsensical footage if you saw it, but the scenes depicted were actually those of the Ferguson riots, as well as the Je Suis Charlie protests, and various historical footage from conflict throughout the years. If you watch it again with that in mind and paying attention to the various clips on the screen, it’s a very powerful and emotional experience. Hearing Eric plea, “give me back my hometown” while footage is playing above him of protest signs saying “black lives matter” kind of drives it all home.
Far more effective and intelligent than Prince comparing the value of black lives to albums and books. Because at the end of the day, even though when you watch it on the news it’s (hopefully) so far removed from your own existence that it doesn’t seem quite real, but it’s still somebody’s hometown.