The 60th Annual Grammy Awards was hosted in New York City for the first time in fifteen years. Here are some of the top moments from the music industry’s top movers and shakers of 2018 at the famed Madison Square Garden in the heart of the concrete jungle of the Big Apple.
White roses were in bloom on the Grammys red carpet. In support of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movement, women and men wore white roses to symbolize their offering of hope, peace, sympathy, and solidarity to the brave women coming forward about their experiences of sexual discrimination, harassment, and assault in the entertainment industry, among all other industries as well. Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Lana Del Rey, and Alessia Cara were among the celebrities who took part in this showing of award show activism.
Kesha delivered the most powerful and moving performance of the night with her song “Praying” from Rainbow. She was introduced by Janelle Monae, who gave a stirring speech about how women in music come in peace, but mean business when it comes to dismantling the abuse of power in their industry, declaring that “just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.” With the support of Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, and the Resistance Revival Chorus, Kesha gave it her all with her redemption ballad, letting her emotions fuel the charged performance. A survivor herself, Kesha has been an influential and empowering voice leading the charge against the abuse of women in the music industry. “Praying” was a moment of unity, empathy, and strength that demonstrated that women joined together are a force to be reckoned with.
Many of the night’s performers raised their voices to shed light on important social and political issues, making musical commentary and statements on racism, immigration, equality, resistance, and justice. Aided by U2 and Dave Chappelle, Kendrick Lamar opened the show with a rumble with a rousing, intense, and politically-charged medley consisting of “XXX.” and “DNA.” (from his album, DAMN.) and Jay Rock’s “King’s Dead” (featured on the Black Panther soundtrack). The powerhouse rapper Lamar swept the Rap categories, gathering wins for Best Rap Album; Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, and Best Music Video for “HUMBLE.”, and Best Rap Sung Performance for “LOYALTY.” featuring Rihanna. In his acceptance speech, Lamar thoughtfully remarked that “being an artist is about expressing yourself, putting that paint on the canvas for the world to evolve, for the next listener, the next generation after.” Preceded by a inspired introduction by Camila Cabello, who stressed the significance of an America that was “built by dreamers, for dreamers, chasing the American dream,” U2 returned to share an outdoors performance of “Get Out Of Your Own Way” in front of the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of the American Dream. Logic, Khalid, and Alessia Cara, raised a call to arms to fight for what’s right with their uplifting performance of “1-800-273-8255,” in which Logic vocalized support to women, people of colour, and diverse peoples against predators and hate, reminding them that they are not alone and that despite what the US president may say, they are not shitholes. Grammys host James Corden and friends could not resist from poking fun at the Commander in Chief with a skit about the written expose, “Fire & Fury,” in which John Legend, Cher, Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, and Hillary Clinton auditioned for the role of narrator of the future Best Spoken Word Album Grammy winner.
The Grammys could not properly celebrate 2017 without live performances of some of the past year’s best party anthem. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee brought the song of Summer 2017 “Despacito” to life with a lively Latin dance party. Cardi B and Bruno Mars were fly and fresh with their In Living Color-inspired remix collaboration of “Finesse”. DJ Khaled, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller unleashed sultry salsa heat onto the stage with “Wild Thoughts”.
Sometimes, it’s nice to slow things down and keep it simple. A handful of performers demonstrated the effectiveness of trying a little tenderness. Lady Gaga‘s compassionate piano performances of “Joanne” and “Million Reasons” showcased how loving and heavenly she is on the ivory keys. Loving and compassionate performance of Lady Gaga’s Joanne and Million Reasons. Backed by a glorious gospel choir, Sam Smith bared his soul on “Pray”. Pink‘s stripped down performance of “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” proved that whether suspended or grounded, her vocals always soar.
This year’s ceremony was full of many unforgettable and poignant musical tributes, duets, and group performances. Broadway star Ben Platt (from Dear Evan Hansen, which won Best Musical Theater Album) delivered a stunning vocal of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story. Broadway legend Patti LaPone gave an ovational performance of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. Gary Clark, Jr. and Jon Batiste paid homage to rockabilly pioneers Chuck Berry and Fats Domino with “Maybelline” and “Ain’t That A Shame”. Miley Cyrus joined Elton John on his iconic “Tiny Dancer“. Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris shared a tribute to Tom Petty with “Wildflowers”. In honour of the fallen music fans from the Manchester and Vegas tragedies, Eric Church, Maren Morris, and Brothers Osborne shared their rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”.
For newcomers and emerging artists alike, that first Grammy performance is a monumental event. Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover) made his Grammy debut with his sizzling performance of “Terrified” from Awaken, My Love! and was joined by JD McCrary, who is set to appear as the Young Simba to Glover’s Adult Simba in the upcoming live-action film of The Lion King. Childish Gambino also picked up an award for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Redbone”. Also making her Grammy grand entrance was Best New Artist nominee SZA, who served smooth vibes with her song, “Broken Clocks”. Canada’s very own Alessia Cara won the coveted Best New Artist award, making her the first Canadian born artist to win in the category. She used her Grammy moment to urge music lovers to acknowledge and support real music and real artists, as “everyone deserves the same shot”.
The top of the pops was Ed Sheeran , who was absent for the ceremony but was the winner of Best Pop Vocal Album for Divide and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Shape of You,” the category in which he was nominated alongside a talented group of women including Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Kesha, and Lady Gaga. It should be noted that despite the efforts of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movement raising conversation on equal representation and treatment, women are still grossly underrepresented at the Grammy Awards. Lorde, who wasn’t invited to give a solo performance at the Grammys despite the fact that the other Album of the Year nominees were offered that opportunity, was a glaring omission from the performance line-up. The only two female winners to accept awards on the Grammys broadcast were Rihanna (for her feature with Kendrick Lamar) and Alessia Cara. When asked about his thoughts on the male-dominated Grammys, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow simply remarked that women “need to step up,” ignoring the fact that this situation is a systemic issue of women not being heard and recognized than women not showing up, which trailblazing women like Kesha and Alessia Cara have boldly and bravely demonstrated through their work. Clearly, the members of the Recording Academy have a long way to go when it comes to acting upon their pledge of equal representation.
Bruno Mars was the big winner of the night with a total of 6 wins in all of his nominated categories, including Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for “That’s What I Like”; Best R&B Album for 24K Magic; and the Top Three Awards of the Grammys, Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”), Record of the Year (“24K Magic”), and Album of the Year for 24K Magic. As the entertainer graciously shared in his acceptance speech, the songs on 24K Magic were “written with nothing but joy and for one reason only, and that’s love.” The joy and love spread by music is the kind of artistic contribution the music world needs right now.