Last night, the 60th annual Grammy Awards took place last night in New York, a symbolic gesture for the event that saw the show return to Madison Square Garden. Arriving alongside what James Corden called “most diverse group of nominees in Grammys history” in his opening monologue, the night itself was full of standouts and which eventually saw mainstream golden child Bruno Mars sweep awards in all major categories.
While nominations delivered a genuinely exciting list of talented “new” artists like Childish Gambino, SZA and Daniel Caesar, the excitement that preceded felt lacking at the actual show which in several ways, upheld traditional standards of obscuring female talent. Here’s our take on how the night went down — and how we’re feeling about it now.
The big winner of the night was Bruno Mars, who took home six awards including the triple crown win of Record of the Year (“24K Magic”); Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”) and Album of the Year (24K Magic). Coming in closely behind was Kendrick Lamar who won five awards including Best Rap Album for DAMN. which meant we could sleep peacefully. He opened show with a brilliantly dramatic and political, performance of “XXX” (featuring comedian Dave Chappelle (who won Best Comedy Album) and U2’s Bonowhich) which set the tone for the night. Interestingly enough, U2 was the act that seemed to have the most stage attention over the night— first alongside Lamar, then with their own performance on a dock in front of the Statue of Liberty then as the presenters for Album of the Year. Yeah, we’re scratching our heads about that too.
Every year, one of the main elements that elevates the Grammys from a major award shows to a calendar event are the once in a lifetime collaborations between music’s new generation and its old guard. Remember Beyoncé and Tina Turners’s immaculate rendition of “Proud Mary”? Or Stevie Wonder joining Daft Punk to add even more funk to “Get Lucky?” Half of the excitement around the Grammys comes from realizing your favourites are also each other’s favourite.
In comparison, this year seemed somewhat lacklustre. Aside from Miley Cyrus and Elton John dueting on “Tiny Dancer” and Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris performing a tribute to Tom Petty (easily one of the best efforts of the night), the other “collaborations” were simply live performances of songs that already exist like when Bruno Mars and Cardi B took the stage to give us a ‘90s-inspired performance of “Finesse.” Even the Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller’s summer banger, “Wild Thoughts” didn’t receive the Santana accompaniment it could have. But our favourite of the night has to go to Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino’s oh so great funk-R&B performance of “Terrified,” which featured nine-year-old J.D. McCray, the young boy who is slated to play Simba in the upcoming live of action remake of The Lion King.
Oh, and don’t forget about Shaggy and Sting’s performance of Sting’s 1987 hit “Englishman in New York” for some reason. Another head scratcher.
Lorde, who was up for Record of the Year for her pristinely powerful, Melodrama, was the only nominee not offered a solo spot on stage (she was offered the option to perform as part of the Tom Petty tribute, but declined). We were surprised to see SZA, who was up for five awards come out with nothing too (but her performance of “Broken Clocks” in front of a Matrix-themed backdrop was one of the night’s best).
SZA lost out to hometown favourite, Brampton, Ontario’s Alessia Cara for Best New Artist. In her acceptance speech Cara said she had been practicing receiving Grammys “in the shower since she was a kid.” Other snubs included Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” which didn’t win for any of its three nominations, and then, perhaps the biggest snub of the night went to Jay-Z who had eight nominations and walked away empty-handed, despite being honoured during Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala. Another big upset was the win for best Pop Solo Performance Award, which saw P!nk, Kesha, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson and Ed Sheeran all battling it out. Sheeran (who wasn’t in attendance) came out on top and took it for “Shape of You.” He celebrated the win by sharing a photo of his cat.
While it was great to see the likes of Rihanna, Gaga, Beyonce and the Carter gang, we did notice a lack of attendees: Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Drake all were absent from the audience this year. Also absent: people dancing. Remember when music awards had people jiving, laughing and singing along from their seats? For some reason, perhaps a sign of the times, this year featured a more somber, subdued vibe.
Another glaring element seemingly missing from this years awards was the politics. Last year, the Grammys arrived shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration and a few weeks after the travel ban that exclusively targeted individuals from Muslim-majority countries. A Tribe Called Quest aimed their focus squarely at the 45th and even Katy Perry was there for the discourse. This year, white roses were sported to show solidarity with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and speeches from the likes of Janelle Monae reiterated the importance of equality. After performing the heartbreaking suicide prevention song, “1-800-273-8255” alongside Alessia Cara and Khlaid (with survivors behind them), Logic’s speech felt a necessary moment in providing visibility to issues surrounding mental health.
Perhaps the most affecting displays of solidarity and strength came from Kesha who’s performance of “Praying”— alongside an all-star cast including Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha—was definitely a groundbreaking moment for the singer, who used the platform of the Grammys to address her enduring record-rights battle with former producer Dr. Luke.
But the end of the Grammys left us with more questions than answered. Following the awards show, Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy, had this to say about the marginalization of female artists at this year’s ceremony (viaVariety ):
It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.
But at the end of the day, Lorde got the final word which is how we’re going to remember the 2018 Grammys.