This year’s Grammy Awards were dogged by controversies around performances as well as awardees who did not show up as a mark of protest
Ariana Grande a no-show despite winning first Grammy Award
Ariana Grande won her first Grammy Award but the singer didn’t collect it after deciding to skip the ceremony following a public dispute with the show’s producer.
Grande accused Grammy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich of lying about discussions with the singer about performing at the ceremony. Ehrlich told that Grande had told producers that she didn’t have adequate time to prepare.
“As it turned out, when we finally got to the point where we thought maybe it would work, she felt it was too late for her to pull something together for sure,” he said.
But Grande fired back in a social media post that she “can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken.” She alleged her “creativity” and “self-expression” was “stifled,” adding, “I hope the show is exactly what you want it to be and more.”
Grande won the best pop vocal album trophy for Sweetener, beating Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. Grande was not in attendance at the pre-telecast ceremony, but she wrote on social media that her win was “wild and beautiful.”
Is rap a dominant genre?
But the controversies did not end with Grande.
Childish Gambino, the stage name of actor Donald Glover and another prominent rap nominee, Kendrick Lamar, both declined invitations to perform or attend the show. Some rap artists feel the Grammys have been slow to recognise how the genre now dominates popular music.
And as if to second its popularity, Gambino’s disturbing look at race relations, This is America, won record and song of the year. It was the first time a rap-based song won both of those awards, considered — with album of the year — the recording industry’s most prestigious.
Ludwig Goransson, a songwriter and producer on This is America, said backstage that he was surprised the victories were so historic. Just listening to the radio, watching the culture and seeing how many rap songs are downloaded is evidence of rap’s impact.
“It’s about time something like this happened with the Grammys as well,” Goransson said.
Cardi B beats the boys to win rap album honors at Grammys
An overwhelmed Cardi B won her first Grammy Award on Sunday night, making history as the first solo woman to win best rap album.
“Invasion of Privacy” beat out albums by the late Mac Miller, Nipsey Hussle, Pusha T and Travis Scott.
“Oh my goodness,” she said, struggling to gather herself. “Whoa, child.”
Cardi B is just the fifth woman ever nominated in the category, which was created in 1995.
Lauryn Hill was part of the Fugees when the group won in 1997 for “The Score.”
Cardi B took the stage at the Staples Center holding the hand of husband, Offset, with whom she has reunited after marital issues last year.
Holding the trophy in her white-gloved hands, Cardi B thanked “you husband” and the couple’s daughter, who was born seven months to the date.
“I’m sorry, I just, oh the nerves are so bad,” she said. “Maybe I need to start smoking weed.”
Cardi B told the crowd she found out she was pregnant before her album was completed. She was under pressure to finish it and do video shoots before she began showing.
“He was like you’re going to do this album,” she said of Offset. “We’re going to have this baby and do this album.”
Cardi B had one of the show’s memorable performances, twerking on a piano and strutting with peacock-like plumage attached to her hips while singing “Money.” Her necklace fell off mid-song but she kept on going.
She lost out on her other four nominations, including in the record and album of the year categories.
Michelle Obama gets raucous applause at Grammy Awards
Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance to help open the Grammy Awards with host Alicia Keys.
The former first lady appeared onstage with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith and Keys to say how music has impacted their lives.
Obama’s initial comments were interrupted by raucous applause and many in the Staples Center crowd stood. She smiled and eventually re-started her comments.
“From the Motown records I wore out on the south side to the Who Run the World songs that fuelled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for everybody here,” Obama said.
“Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in. Music shows us that all of it matters — every story within every voice, every note within every song, is that right ladies?” Obama said.
Keys paused to absorb the moment and referenced the Beyonce song in asking, “Who run the world?”
Obama, who grew up on the south side of Chicago, has been on a tour to promote her memoir Becoming.
Another ex-White House resident was awarded a Grammy. Former President Jimmy Carter, who is 94, won an award for best spoken word recording. It’s his second Grammy.
Rap artists, women take center stage at Grammys
Rap artists and women have both felt shunned by the Grammy Awards in recent years. But this year, they took the center stage.
Besides Gambino, Kacey Musgraves won top album. A year after many women felt left out of the Grammy telecast, they delivered the night’s most memorable performances. Cardi B, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Travis Scott, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Diana Ross, J Balvin, Camila Cabello, Brandi Carlile, Dan + Shay, H.E.R., Little Big Town, Post Malone, Chloe x Halle and Dua Lipa were a part of the line-up.
The best new artist winner, British singer Dua Lipa, also cast major shade on the outgoing recording academy president. Lady Gaga and Brandi Carlile won three Grammys.
Cardi B became the first solo female to win best rap album, although Lauryn Hill was the lead singer of the Fugees, which won the same award at the 1997 Grammys. Cardi B was so nervous accepting the award that she joked, “Maybe I need to start smoking weed.”
She looked anything but rattled earlier, when her rendition of Money was among the night’s performance highlights. Janelle Monae delivered a smoking version of her hit Make Me Feel; St. Vincent and Dua Lipa’s duet on Masseduction was steamy; H.E.R. turned heads with Hard Place; and Carlile sang an inspired version of her hit The Joke.
Being part of a big night for women was huge to her, Carlile said backstage after the show.
“I’m a kid from the ‘90s and Lilith Fair, you know, and those women were just dominating those platforms,” she said. “They were dominating those arena and amphitheater stages. They were getting record deals. They were becoming record executives themselves. They completely controlled the airwaves. They were on the radio. And to watch that backslide for the last 20 years has been heartbreaking. Tonight, it gives me hope as a mother of two young daughters.”
When she accepted her best new artist award, Dua Lipa pointedly said, “I guess this year we really stepped up.”
That was a reference to outgoing Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow, who said women needed to “step up” when he was asked about the lack of women in top categories in 2018. He later acknowledged it was a poor choice of words.
Yet Dua Lipa was rewarded by having her acceptance speech cut off mid-sentence. She wasn’t alone, however, as a handful of other artists were also hustled off the stage, and the show seemed disjointed at the end, rushing through its final awards. Under the circumstances, having a lengthy tribute to Portnow before he gave his own speech seemed tone-deaf.
Drake’s speech cut off unintentionally
Dua Lipa wasn’t alone, Kacey Musgraves and Drake’s acceptance speech cut off mid-sentence. A spokesman for the Grammys says that show producers didn’t mean to cut Drake off mid-speech. Drake’s comments were interrupted as he accepted the best rap song trophy for God’s Plan.
The spokesman told reporters backstage that Drake took “a natural pause” and assuming he was done talking, producers cut to a commercial.
The spokesman says Drake was offered a chance to return to the stage and finish his remarks, but he declined and explained that he was satisfied.