The 61st Grammy Awards, hosted by Alicia Keys, vastly exceeded the low bar which was set for them, even with a few of music’s biggest stars deciding to skip out on the awards for various reasons. Kendrick Lamar, who racked up six nominations, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year, skipped due to his past snubs and rap’s lack of representation in winning the awards. Childish Gambino, who took home Song of the Year and Record of the Year for his hit single “This is America,” skipped due to uncited reasons, and Ariana Grande, who took home Best Pop Vocal Album, skipped after an incident arose between her and the show’s producer, Ken Ehrlich.
Even with all the drama, we were not disappointed. We saw women dominate the awards where they were unfairly snubbed or unequally nominated in the past. We saw the first rap song take home Record of the Year, and we saw performances which equaled Coldplay’s in 2003.
Keys opened the show with a message about music and its transformational power.
“When you really want to say something, you say it with a song,” Keys said. “Music is what we cry to, it’s what we march to, it’s what we rock to, it’s what we make love to and it’s our shared global language.”
Keys was later joined on stage by Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez to make a statement for women, and Keys signed them off by asking the rhetorical question, “Excuse me… Who runs the world?”
Last year, after the awards, President of the Recording Academy Neil Portnow made the infamous comment about women in the music industry, stating they need to “step up.” Did they ever. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper took home Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Kacey Musgraves took home four awards including Album of the Year, Cardi B took the Best Rap Album award in a male-heavy genre, Dua Lipa received Best New Artist and H.E.R got best R&B Album.
Kacey Musgraves is the undoubted big winner of this year’s Grammys, with four awards to her name, including Album of the Year. On top of the awards, she put on a tear-jerking performance of her song “Rainbow,” as well as a beautiful tribute to Dolly Parton with the help of Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Katy Perry and Maren Morris.
The Academy was under heavy scrutiny in the past and leading up to this year’s awards for what seemed to be their constant snubbing of rappers in the marquee categories. We have seen Kanye West lose to Maroon 5, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” losing to Adele’s “25” and, more notably, last year Bruno Mars’ “24k Magic” beating out Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino for Album and Record of the Year. This year after his hit “God’s Plan” won Best Rap Song, Drake threw some subtle shade at the Recording Academy.
“We play in an opinion-based sport; not a factual-based sport,” Drake said. “So, it’s not the NBA, where at the end of the year you’re holding a trophy because you made the right decisions and won the games. This is a business where it’s up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada might have to say, or a fly Spanish girl from New York [Cardi B] or a brother from Houston [Travis Scott]. The point is, you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word.”
It was a long wait, but the constant pattern of snubs is over thanks to Donald Glover. Glover, famously known as Childish Gambino, took home the award for Record of the Year with his political hit “This is America.” The song was written to depict the current inequality and harsh treatment of black people in America.
In addition to the awards, the performances alone made the 61st Grammys something to be remembered and marveled over for years to come. People still talk about the historic performances at the Grammys: Coldplay’s stunning performance of Politik in 2003 and arguably the best one to date in Kendrick Lamar’s jaw-dropping show in 2016.
This year we were blessed by the performance of “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves. Brandi Carlile, although the stage presence was not anything to crave, gave us the best vocal performance of the show with her song “The Joke.” Travis Scott and James Blake performed together, with Scott making a statement with his performance of “No Bystanders” from a jail cell.
This Grammys renewed my faith in the Academy; with Neil Portnow stepping down from his position in July of this year, it will be interesting to see how the 62nd Grammys amount to the bar set by this year’s. But for now, we can wake up in the morning and not feel the disappointment of having wasted three hours; instead, we can wake up and relish the fact we were able to witness one of the best Grammys to date.
Reese Gorman is a sophomore journalism major from Schertz, TX. He is passionate about music because he believes it has a unique way of bringing people together and it brings him joy. Reese’s favorite artist is The 1975 and his favorite genre of music is Indie/Alternative. In his free time, Reese enjoys golfing, climbing, camping and reading.