SOUND & VISION BLOG
Edition #8 – February 11th, 2019
The 2019 Grammy Show Coverage
It was a Grammys that was all about women last night.
One can’t help but think that maybe this was an obvious attempt to make up for The Recording Academy’s Neil Portnow’s controversial (and somewhat insensitive) remark from last year’s after-show press conference, where he said: “Women have to step up their game,” responding to a question of why so few women win Grammy awards. Dua Lipa who won The Best New Artist Grammy did respond: “I guess we really stepped up…”
Kacey Musgraves, who won for Album Of The Year, further proved that 2019 was indeed the year of the woman in music.
Leaning more towards being a variety show rather than an awards telecast, the show opened with a very colorful tribute to Latin music. Camila Cabello ran a large group of singers and dancers through “Havana,” which also featured guest appearances by Ricky Martin, Arturo Sandoval, and others. Nothing controversial there, but also nothing ground breaking, either.
Coming in as a new host after several years with LL Cool J, Alicia Keys provided a very casual, almost ad-libbed narrative. Keeping with a nearly all “pro-female” theme, she introduced an army of high profile pop culture icons that included Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett, and Michelle Obama, who each offered words of female empowerment, driven by a strong belief in music’s ability to bring about change.
Shawn Mendes proved he is well on his way to being a major music personality, and continuing with her remarkable transformation (-from cute Disney star to oversexed teen rebel to finally, mature adult performer-) Miley Cyrus contributed a duet with him, before appearing again later in the show with Dolly Parton. As she did last year at the MusiCares Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, Cyrus gave a two great performances on the show that proved she can sing just about any style of music with passion and skill.
It was about women in the winner’s circle too, with Lady Gaga winning the first big award.
She won for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with her recording of “Shallow” sung with Bradley Cooper from the film A Star Is Born. She also sang later in the show. Cardi B won Best Rap Album, beating out favorites like Drake and Kendrick Lamar.
Needless to say, the most compelling performances were all by females. Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” provided a poignant ballad and was followed by the soulful fury of Janelle Monae´s “Make Me Feel,” which borrowed heavily from the songbook of Prince. H.E.R., a new, young female singer, guitarist and songwriter demonstrated her outstanding musical ability and voice with “Hard Place.” She won in the Best R&B Performance category earlier in the pre-Telecast portion of the Grammys, and Best R&B Album during the show.
But, not everything in the show worked. A showcase for Alicia Keys entitled “The Songs I’d Wish I’d Written” medley was basically the type of thing you’d hear from a lounge act,. It seemed oddly out of place on the show which deals primarily with contemporary music.
A big surprise to most viewers and those in the audience was Brandi Carlile’s passionate version of “The Joke,” which producer Ken Erlich was smart to place near the end of the show. The song and Carlile’s album By The Way, I Forgive You, won three Grammys and finally showcased her enormous talent to a massive television audience. As with Nora Jones, you can expect sales of By The Way, I Forgive You to soar this week.
A mash-up with Post Malone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave the show one of its few rock’n’roll moments, but that, too, seemed a little too staged. To boot, “Dark Necessities,” is not one of the band’s great songs; they would have made a bigger impact with a classic like “Californication,” or “Under The Bridge.”
Rap music, which had dominated many of the categories in the last few years, took an obvious back seat on this year’s telecast. It was the first time a rap artist won for Song Of The Year, which went to “This Is America,” by Childish Gambino. It also won for Best Music Video, and Best Rap Solo Performance. Gambino, a film and TV actor whose real name is Donald Glover, opted to boycott the Grammys this year, following the lead of Kendrick Lamar, and Ariana Grande (for what is believed to be a dispute over what song she would have sung on the show).
Drake, who had originally said he would not appear, did show up to accept the Best Rap Song, for “God’s Plan,” and gave a heartfelt speech to young musicians and rappers, which was abruptly cut off when they went to a commercial.
There were three musical tributes during the show to female stars, all of whom hold legendary status. The Dolly Parton tribute which included Dolly singing with Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, Marren Morris, and Little Big Town, featured Parton’s most commercial songs in a group performance that was designed to please middle America. A second tribute was made to the greatest diva of all time, Diana Ross. Ross was featured in an extended segment singing “The Best Years of My Life,” and “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”. It must be said that Ross, at 75, looked and sounded almost as she did in her prime just after leaving The Supremes in the 1970s. Only Ross could get away with wishing herself a happy birthday, as she did at the end of her performance.
The other big musical tribute in the show was to commemorate The 60th Anniversary of Motown, and featured Smokey Robinson, Ne-yo, and Jennifer Lopez doing a medley of many of the label’s classic R&B songs. The idea was cool, but we could have done with a more legitimate female R&B vocalist from the glory days of the label. Martha Reeves or Gladys Knight comes to mind. Done to promote The Recording Academy’s forthcoming Tribute To Motown special set to air on CBS this coming Easter Sunday, the Ross segment and this one made for a good preview of what can expect on that show.
The show’s final musical segment served as a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, with Andra Day, Fantasia, and Yolanda Adams. That was the real deal and a nice way to close out the show.
The Grammy Awards provided further proof that it is indeed “music’s biggest night,” although on this night, it did so with a different twist. The women of the music industry took charge and when it came to those shiny statues of the old fashion victrola…they took them home.
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