I wasn’t planning on writing about the Grammys today because I assumed they would be somewhat of a non-event, as they usually are. While there’s often a moment or two worth talking about, the show tends to feel flat and rife with a collection of so-so performances and wins that feel questionable given what the true cultural conversation is leaning towards. But last night’s Grammys telecast was different. There was energy and excitement and you didn’t feel the true length of the show’s nearly four-hour run time. (Which, as you all know, I’m totally down for. The longer an awards show, the happier I am.) It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it felt much livelier and in line with what the Grammys actually wants to be.
The show was hosted by Alicia Keys, who did an unexpectedly solid job. It was hard to know what to expect from having Keys as a host, since it isn’t really something she has a proven track record of doing well, but she really did. The best kind of Grammys host seems to be someone who can stand back and let the show speak for itself, much like LL Cool J did in his several previous turns as Grammy host, and Keys nailed that energy. She radiated positivity and chill-ness and it felt like she was connecting with everyone, both on-stage and off. She performed as well, doing an impressive medley of random hits from other artists both past and present while simultaneously playing two pianos. Michelle Obama also made a surprise appearance in her intro, which truly would have been enough to cement the night as a success. But there’s still so much more to celebrate!
A Grammys show lives or dies by the quality of it’s performances, and this Grammys show had a whole host of incredible moments. It was clear from the beginning that the show had taken to heart some of the biggest criticisms from last year, namely the significant lack of a female presence both on stage and in the awards themselves. (They also seem to have brushed aside Recording Academy President Neil Portnow’s initial, incredibly stupid response to that criticism, a statement that female artists simply needed to “step it up.” Last night’s Best New Artist winner Dua Lipa didn’t.) Starting with Camila Cabello’s opener, featuring many friends and a set production designed to the gods, the night had an incredible array of performances from an incredible group of ladies. Janelle Monae serving up Prince-esque vibes! Brandi Carlile making me want to cry with her song “The Joke”! H.E.R. making me want to look her up and listen to more of her music! Cardi B doing what Cardi B does best! Lady Gaga doing the most in the wackiest performance of “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” ever committed to tape! St. Vincent & Dua Lipa in an unexpected mingling of their respective songs that actually worked pretty well! Chloe X Halle not getting to do their own great music, but sounding lovely regardless! Excellent tributes to both Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin! Diana Ross being Diana Ross! Good luck re-watching most of these performances though. Official videos are nowhere to be found on YouTube and time of publishing the Grammys website only has three available, including Post Malone’s performance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, definitely the weakest one of the night, along with Jennifer Lopez’s Motown tribute, which is actually pretty entertaining until you ask yourself why on earth they picked Jennifer Lopez to do it.
As for the awards themselves, they don’t really matter. At least, that’s what Drake, who won Best Rap Song, said in his acceptance speech before it was mysteriously cut off. He was initially reported to not be attending the ceremony, along with the likes of Beyonce, Jay Z, Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar, who have all expressed issue with the Grammys and the lack of diversity in its voting body. Gambino ended up becoming the first Hip Hop artist to win both Song and Record of the Year for “This Is America,” which made his absence all the more evident. (You could see him dancing with an animated version of himself during a commercial that aired during the telecast, though.) Other big winners of the night largely focused on female artists, including Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” for Album of the Year, Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” for Best Rap Album (making her the first solo woman to win that award), H.E.R.’s “H.E.R.” for Best R&B Album and Ariana Grande’s “Sweenter” for Best Pop Album. (Grande was also absent from the show, due to earlier issues with the show’s producers.) You can see the full list of winners here.
All in all, the show went a lot better than expected. The energy was there where it often was not in the past, and I for one didn’t really want the night to end. While there’s certainly a lot more that the Grammys can do to celebrate artists from all genres, not just in their performances but in their awards and the people who get to vote for them, last night seemed to take some steps, albeit small, in that direction.
What do you think? Did you enjoy the 2019 Grammys? Were you also unnerved by the new “Aladdin” trailer that aired during the Grammys, which showed Will Smith’s genie in it’s final, truly horrifying form? That movie is going to be a lot. Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…