By Patricia Ressell-Deras
The 61 Grammys had four main themes for this year’s award show: music (and its importance), diversity, equality and cutting off inspirational acceptance speeches.
Camila Cabello opened the 61 Grammy show with her 2017 hit single “Havana,” dedicating it to her grandmother’s childhood in Havana, Cuba. She was joined on stage by Latino singers Ricky Martin and J Balvin, who sang a few lines of his 2017 hit “Mi Gente,” before closing out the first performance of the evening. Overall, the opening this year showed major influences of Latino heritage, and in my book, a big win for diversity in the music industry that night. However, that wasn’t the only major moment of the night.
After Cabello’s stellar performance, Alicia Keys took to the stage to begin hosting. She started the night off with four unexpected guests – Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith and even Michelle Obama. Each woman shared inspiring messages about music and what it means to them. This unexpected message set up two of the most important themes of that night – music and equality. A fact further solidified by Keys’ question, “Who runs the world?” at the end of her introduction, paying homage to the same question asked in Beyonce’s 2011 song, “Run the World (Girls).”
From there the performances and guests only got better. From Shawn Mendez and Miley Cyrus singing a duo of Mendez’s nominated song “In My Blood” to Kacey Musgraves singing “Rainbow,” a track from her winning album “Golden Hour;” from Dan + Shay singing their winning song, “Tequila,” to H.E.R. singing her song “Hard Place;” from Brandi Carlile singing her nominated song, “The Joke,” to Lady Gaga performing her winning song, “Shallow,” without Bradley Cooper; from sister duo Chloe x Halle singing Donny Hathaway’s “Where Is the Love,” to the St. Vincent and Dua Lipa duo that we did not realize we needed until that moment, the night had many good acts.
However, some were better than others. Not many people were thrilled with Post Malone and Red Hot Chili Peppers jamming out to Malone’s songs “Stay” and “Rockstar” or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Dark Necessities.” Travis Scott’s performance with James Blake and Earth Wind & Fire of Scott’s songs, “Stop Trying to Be God” and “No Bystanders” also wasn’t much appreciated. It seems that the public did not like the pairing of rappers and bands.
Dolly Parton’s tribute seemed to be a miss with some of the viewers. What was supposed to be one of the biggest moments of the Grammys, turned out to be a somewhat hot mess. Many enjoyed rehearing Parton’s songs such as “After the Gold Rush,” “9 To 5” and “Jollene.” Yet some took to criticising Katy Perry’s and Kacey Musgraves’ performance. Yet all seemed to be forgiven when Parton revealed her new song, “Red Shoes.”
Another bad performance of the night was Cardi B’s cabaret-inspired performance of her single “Money.” During the song, many could spot Cardi B’s off rhythm lip syncing and her wardrobe malfunction.
One of the biggest debatable performances of the night was Jennifer Lopez’s Motown mashup tribute. Lopez performed over five Motown hits, four costume changes, as well as rigorous dance sequences all in one performance. She sung songs such as “Dancing in the Street,” “Mr. Postman,” “My Girl,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Another Star” and more; pairing up with Alicia Keys, Motown legend Smokey Robinson and even R&B singer Ne-Yo. Lopez took all the viewers through the Motown era in her performance. Her tribute was spectacular, yet some viewers were left wondering if Lopez was the right singer to perform such a tribute, as she does not have any ties to the genre.
However, not all the performances where debatable, some performances were major players that night. Janelle Monáe’s mashup of “Make Me Feel” and “Django,” two tracks from her nominated album “Dirty Computer,” not only wowed viewers, but also showed just what it means when diversity and equality come to play with music. From her lyrics to her dance moves to her literal mic drop, Monáe put a new meaning to the phrase “Black Girl Magic.”
Another major performance of that night was Keys’ mashup of multiple nominated songs throughout the decades from multiple genres. Songs performed included Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” Lauryn-Hill’s “Doo-Wop,” Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams,” Drake’s “In My Feelings” and many more. Keys not only added her own artistic twist on each song, but also managed to flawlessly transition from one song to the next, all while straddling a piano bench and playing two pianos. Surprisingly, that was not even the best performance of the night.
The best performance has to go to Diana Ross. Ross came out in a beautiful flowing red dress and and performed two of her hits, “The Best Years of My Life” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” Ending her memorable performance by a standing ovation and a cheerful, “Happy Birthday to Me.” Ross will be turning 75 on March 26.
Among these inspiring and not so inspiring performances, were inspiring acceptance speeches – at least I think they were. Gaga took home the first win of the night as winner of Best Pop/Group Performance. During her acceptance speech, Gaga addressed mental health issues and encouraged viewers to reach out to those who show signs of suffering from mental illness.
“If you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away,” Gaga said.
Sadly this powerful and inspiring speech was the only one completed. Later on in the night Drake won Best Rap Song, but this is where the night took a turn for the worst regarding acceptance speeches.
When Drake accepted his Grammy and began his speech, you could tell that his message had some powerful words behind it. Drake started off by declaring that he “definitely did not think” he would win anything. Drake went on to address all his peers and “all the kids…aspiring to do music,” declaring that music is an “opinion-based sport, not a factual based sport.” Additionally, Drake began to take shots at the Academy stating that they may not understand rap and the messages that make the songs.
While Drake was empowering his fellow rappers, the programming suddenly switched over to commercials, abruptly ending a very motivational, and inspiring message.
However the cut-offs did not end there. Throughout the rest of the night other winners such as H.E.R. and Dua Lipa where either played off quite rudely or cut off just like Drake had been.
With about 10 minutes to go on the clock, Keys announced the winner of Record of the Year, “This is America.” While Childish Gambino was not there to receive his award, his co-producer, Ludwig Göransson, accepted the award for him. As Göransson began to talk about the relevance of the song and begins his thanks, the Academy begins to play him out. While Göransson was still trying to give thanks and mention the injustice happening to 21 Savage, the Academy very rudely turned the lights overhead off as an unspoken way to say “stop and leave the stage.”
The last victim of the night was Kacey Musgraves. Before the clock turned 11:30, Musgraves was played out by the Academy, but unlike the previous winners who were trying to communicate a bigger message to the viewers, Musgraves was at the end of giving her thanks.