Highs and Lows of the 2019 Grammy Awards
The Grammys delivered its predictable mix of questionable choices re: fashion, tributes, and snubs, but this year also gave us a few glimpses into the light at the end of its fraught tunnel. Childish Gambino’s This is America and Ariana Grande’s sweetener, two crowd pleasers, both took home prizes, or rather, were later sent the prizes, as both artists didn't attend the show. In fact, there was a considerable chunk of absent star power with artists like Beyonce, Jay Z, Rihanna and Taylor Swift joining the list of no-shows. The winning artists who did attend didn’t even fare that well, as the show featured many cut off speeches and production issues.
After the awards show mutinies of 2018, all eyes were on the Recording Academy to finally adapt to the current landscape and reward artistic exploration, especially by women and minority musicians who are consistently robbed of accolades. Last year #GrammysSoMale went viral, and this year could have been subtitled “revenge of the women.”
In comparison to previous years’ shameless disregard for innovation, this year’s Grammys definitely delivered. The package may have gotten lost in the mail and arrived a little beaten up, but it was delivered… eventually. Here are my five most notable moments of the 2019 Grammys:
Michelle Obama’s cameo
No, she’s not a musician, but anyone who doesn’t think her appearance elevates any event is kidding themselves. My First Lady joined Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, J.Lo and host Alicia Keys onstage to express her love of music. But there’s absolutely nothing I can say about her that’ll sound better than her own words. I miss you, Michelle!
J.Lo’s Motown tribute
Notable for all the wrong reasons. I’m thinking of suing for emotional damages… whichever old white man who chose Jennifer Lopez to deliver a tribute to Berry Gordy’s groundbreaking black record label needs a serious talking to.
As someone who grew up on the likes Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Temptations, there is positively no reason to have J.Lo’s 00’s R&B/showgirl stylings in the ring for a tribute to Motown Records. Yes, she is a super talented artist, but put the “soul” in Motown’s “soul music” she does not. Please sit down, Smokey. To add insult to injury, Berry Gordy received no shoutouts? Producers, Diana Ross was literally in the room! Speaking of Miss Ross…
The Diana Ross tribute, by the only person qualified to do so…
…Diana herself! Rather than get J.Lo’ed, Miss Ross took her legacy into her own hands and performed a few of her hits as she approaches her 75th birthday. The palate cleanser we all needed. A true daughter of Motown, Diana’s mark on pop culture is as undeniable. Her lilting voice, big hair and seemingly bigger eyes have been stopping the world in the name of love for 50 years and counting.
Though nominated 12 times and eventually recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, none of her music ever received a competitive Grammy, but nothing has ever held Diana down. She’s the ultimate definition of a legend.
Cardi B in general
Belcalis Alamanzar was the indisputable champion of the 2019 Grammys. Her red carpet look was easily the best of the night, a 1995 Thierry Mugler haute couture look inspired by the birth of Venus. Paying homage to one of the finest works of art is a perfect middle finger gesture to those who write her off as nothing more than a ghostwritten hoodrat.
Never one to do things halfway, Cardi further discredited her haters by cinching her first Grammy for Rap Album of the Year, Invasion of Privacy. But for me, the icing on the cake was her transcendent performance of hit single “Money.” From the moment that pianist looked straight into the camera, we didn’t stand a chance. The costumes (all three of her Grammys looks were Mugler!), the dancers, the synchronization, the instrumentals, THE COSTUMES… show-stopping is too tame of a word.
All of the other performances
Besides the Motown tragedy, the night’s performances really consistently delivered. The rise in visibility of public opinion and outrage on social media has rendered the awards themselves much less relevant than the performances. The Dolly Parton tribute was beautiful and demonstrated a great understanding of her legacy, the Aretha Franklin tribute was perfectly casted by women clearly influenced by her sound, and Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” medley was an entire production. A personal favorite was Camila Cabello opening the show with “Havana” featuring special guest Ricky Martin.
All in all, the Grammys are bouncing back in a major way. Who knows, in a few years artists may actually be receiving awards show credit directly proportional to the quality of their work! Stay tuned!
Feature image via.