by Julian Spivey
Year of the Queens
This year’s Grammy Awards were dominated by female performances during the telecast. Of the 17 performances on the biggest night in music of the year only three of them didn’t include a stellar female performance. If you look at my ranking of every performance from best-to-worst at the bottom of this page you’ll see the top 10 performances of the night, in my opinion, were female led. And, this is no small matter, because just last year there was outrage over the lack of females winning awards at the Grammys and while two of the four biggest awards of the night went to men, nay man (both Song and Record of the Year went to Childish Gambino for “This Is America” winner were dominant in many of the genre categories, even ones where women don’t frequently or almost never win like Cardi B winning Rap Album of the Year and St. Vincent winning Best Rock Song. Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year for Golden Hour becoming the first woman not named Adele or Taylor Swift to win the honor in the last decade. Last year Recording Academy President Neil Portnow infamously said: “Women need to step up” and that’s part of the reason why he’s soon to be out the door. Women did step up Neil and they stepped all over your show on Sunday night.
Grammys Need to Bring In Big Stars
While the Grammys certainly rocked with all the great female performances it did miss a bit of star power. In fact, the two most nominated musicians this year – Drake and Kendrick Lamar – didn’t perform. Lamar wasn’t there and Drake only made a brief appearance to accept his honor for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan” before basically calling winning a Grammy pointless and having his mic either intentionally cut off or simply because producers thought his speech was over and were going to commercial (it’s hard to tell because of a long pause he took). Childish Gambino who would win two of the night’s biggest honors in Song of the Year and Record of the Year was also nowhere to be seen. It’s been theorized that many hip hop honors have begun boycotting the Grammys for its lack of support for the genre in the overall Album of the Year category, especially after last year when favorite Lamar lost the award to Bruno Mars controversially. I understand you can’t force artists to attend or perform on the Grammys telecast, but it’s not a good look at all for the Recording Academy when the most heralded artists of the night don’t actually show.
Brandi Carlile Stuns
Brandi Carlile was my favorite Grammy nominee this year, receiving six nominations (the most of any female performer), for her fantastic album By the Way, I Forgive You and song “The Joke.” Carlile swept the Americana category winning Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance. She was also nominated for three of the biggest honors of the night: Album, Record and Song (a huge breakthrough for Americana artists) but lost those to Kacey Musgraves and Childish Gambino. I believe Carlile’s performance of “The Joke” on the telecast was the best of the night and it’s incredible knowing that her stellar performance will boost her career and get her name and music to many who’ve never heard it before. I believe her performance on the Grammys can do for her what Sturgill Simpson’s performance and Album of the Year nomination two years ago did for him.
Country at the Grammys Compared to Country Radio
Anybody who follows the genre of country music knows that there’s been a fight for years regarding what’s being played on country radio formats. Country radio mostly plays men, the younger the better, who all sort of sound alike. It ignores women almost altogether, despite there being a ton of talent and barely even plays men like Chris Stapleton because they’re frankly too country for country radio. It does this because they claim to have statistics that say this is what people want to listen to. The Grammys over the last few years have done a better job at picking Country Album of the Year than country industry awards like the ACMs and CMAs. The last four Country Album of the Year Grammy winners Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour, Chris Stapleton’s From A Room, Vol. 1, Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and Stapleton’s Traveller have received very little airplay on country radio, and in the case of Musgraves latest release and Simpson almost nonexistent airplay. Despite this fact country radio doesn’t seem to care. So, kudos to the Grammys. Hopefully country radio will learn one of these days.
Cutting Acceptance Speeches Off
Like I said before I’m not 100 percent sure whether the cutting off of Drake’s mic during his acceptance of Best Rap Song was intentional or accidental, but I do know that the cutting off of Best New Artist Dua Lipa’s speech was intentional and it was rude as hell. As was the attempted playing off of “This is America” producers during the Record of the Year acceptance and Kacey Musgraves during her acceptance of the biggest honor of the night Album of the Year. I understand that the telecast was running long and at three hours and 45 minutes was the longest in my memory, but it’s just disrespectful to do that to these artists you’re rewarding. Notice that the Grammys didn’t even attempt to play off outgoing President Neil Portnow, who’s so full of himself he threw his own little going away party including tribute video. If you want to cut the show down how about these frivolous moments that absolutely no one tunes in for?
Performance Slot Timing
The Grammys during rehearsals truly should learn better placements for certain performances to avoid beautiful, understated performances like Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” being held directly before great, upbeat theatrical performances like Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel.” This would allow both performances to get their respected due. I remember a few years ago when my favorite performance of the entire Grammys telecast was Best New Artist nominee Brandy Clark performing a beautiful rendition of “Hold My Hand” with country legend Dwight Yoakam and immediately following was a raucous performance mashup by Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar. How many people are going to remember a great song after viewing such a raucous performance? The Grammys could easily schedule these performances to better fit the artists and songs being performed.
I have no clue why the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on the Grammys telecast this year. I have nothing against the group, but they weren’t nominated for anything and it wasn’t a part of a tribute. I really believe the Grammys either 1) asked Post Malone who he wanted to perform with (as if a guy nominated for Album of the Year needs that) or 2) demanded Post Malone play with RHCP. Post Malone performed snippets of his songs “Stay” and “Rockstar” before Red Hot Chili Peppers came out to perform “Dark Necessities,” which is more than two years old, with Post Malone somewhat chiming in. The Chili Peppers being there on Sunday night was completely unnecessary. Maybe the Grammys felt they had to include a rock act somehow? The mashups between Shawn Mendes and Miley Cyrus on Mendes’ “In My Blood” and St. Vincent and Dua Lipa mix-mashing their respective “Masseduction” and “One Kiss” together were better received, but why not let eventual Best New Artist Dua Lipa have a performance alone and St. Vincent be able to perform her Best Rock Song of the Year winning song alone and Mendes perform his Song of the Year nominated song alone? We don’t have to have these mashups and added star power like Cyrus to enjoy them. And, if you claim you don’t have time you let host Alicia Keys cover other people’s songs on multiple pianos for at least 10 minutes. There’s your time.
Rock Album & Pop Vocal Album Not on Telecast
Do you know who won Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards this year? Probably not, because it wasn’t telecast on the show. The winner was Greta Van Fleet for From The Fires. Ariana Grande’s win for Best Pop Vocal Album for Sweetener also wasn’t telecast. It was probably initially supposed to be before she backed out of performing last second because producers and her couldn’t come together on a song choice. Hey guys, let the talent choose what they want to perform! Major genres should always have their biggest honors of the year telecast – in my opinion this includes Albums for Rock, Pop, R&B, Rap and Country.
History & Tidbits
Childish Gambino became the first rap artist (at least his winning song was rap based) to win both Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “This Is America.”
Cardi B became the first solo female rapper to win Best Rap Album for “Invasion of Privacy.”
There were multiple ties at the Grammys this year, with the highest profile one coming for Best Rap Performance where it was shared by Anderson Paak for “Bubblin’” and Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake for “King’s Dead.”
Favorite Grammy Tweets
Grammy Performances: Best-to-Worst