If you’ve been minimally paying attention to trends in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), then you know about Flamy Grant. 

If you haven’t, let me fill you in. Flamy Grant is a drag queen who has been making waves in CCM with her chart-topping album Bible Belt Baby

Riding the wave of her success, she and her team entered the album for consideration in the Album of the Year for the Gospel and CCM category for the 2024 Grammys. It would certainly be a huge step for queer inclusion for the Recording Academy (a secular organization) to recognize that queer Christians and queer Christian artists exist and that our contributions to the genre matter.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Recording Academy believes that their DEI statement of “[Advancing] a strong culture of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and respect at the Recording Academy, its affiliates, and in the music industry” doesn’t apply to queer Christian folks within the Christian genre. 

In a recent interview with LGBTQ Nation, Flamy revealed how she discovered that the Grammy board moved her album from CCM to Pop without notifying her. 

The decision to move her album to the pop category was allegedly due to the “explicit content” in her song “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab,” which contains a few cuss words.

But what exactly is explicit content? Merriam-Webster lists the primary definition of “explicit” as “fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity: leaving no question as to meaning or intent.”

If that’s the Recording Academy’s definition of evaluating explicit content, then fine. That’s a fantastically accurate description of how “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab” makes Flamy’s critique of patriarchy and sexism in the church known. It’s explicit in the sense that it’s not vague in the slightest. 

The second Merriam-Webster entry under “explicit” is “open in the depiction of nudity or sexuality.” 

Well, Flamy didn’t describe (graphically or otherwise) any sexual situations or nudity in the song. She simply highlighted the reality that in too many evangelical spaces, it seems that “God would only hear a prayer if it came from a person with a c*ck.” 

She also included a few other lyrics that contain cuss words, specifically one verse describing the heroics of women in the Bible who often get vilified. But again, no sexual content or nudity. 

I have a feeling that neither definition is how the Grammys interpret “explicit content.” From what I can tell, they interpret it as an umbrella term to describe content that includes cuss words, sexual situations, drug use, or graphic violence. This is also the metric used by the Parental Advisory Label (PAL or PA), which encourages musicians to voluntarily mark their albums with the PAL or individual songs as “explicit” if they contain any of the content listed above.

If those are the metrics for warning folks of graphic content, where’s the “explicit content” warning on the songs about bathing in the blood of a murdered Palestinian Jew? Or does the upbeat acoustic guitar music make those songs palatable enough to forgo the warning?

The Recording Academy finds itself on the slippery slope of double standards if it excludes artists from the CCM genre based on some but not all explicit content.

Even though there is an “explicit content” warning on one of Flamy’s songs, why should that keep her out of the CCM category? Are they choosing to accept nominations only from a certain brand of Christianity?

“There are all kinds of Christians,” Flamy reminded her audience in the LGBTQ Nation Interview. “There are Christians who curse. Most of my Christian friends curse. That’s the world I live in.”

I’d add that some of the most challenging, thought-provoking sermons I’ve ever heard include carefully chosen cuss words. To paraphrase Nikki “The Anchor” Hardeman on an episode of the Holy Smokes: Cigars and Spirituality podcast, there’s a blessing in calling out the truth of what oppression is. And the truth is that oppression is bullshit. 

But perhaps the exclusion is more pointed than that. Maybe the Recording Academy is internalizing a conservative argument I discussed in an article earlier this year:  the idea that “if it’s queer, it must be sexual.” That somehow Flamy and people like me are the embodiment of explicit sexual content simply because we breathe. 

If the Recording Academy holds that belief, then it wouldn’t be a far jump in logic to believe it can decide who’s “Christian enough” to be considered a CCM artist. 

Flamy expressed similar concerns in the LGBTQ Nation Interview, saying, “…I don’t believe the Recording Academy should be in the business of gatekeeping Christianity, which is how this feels to me.”

Unfortunately, Flamy’s album didn’t make it to the final round of voting, likely because it was never intended to compete against pop albums. It makes me wonder how her album would have fared if the Recording Academy had left her CCM chart-topping album in the CCM category.

This series of events grieves me when I think about how often people are hurt by unnecessary gatekeeping in the Church. Perhaps we’d be better off if we were more explicit about the love Jesus calls us to, for he wasn’t ambiguous about the reality that we are all children of God.


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