BY JAHIYA CLARK ’20
“Do you feel the love in the building?” asked singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as she opened the 61st annual Grammy Awards. “This is love. This is life. This is living [...] all because of music. Music is so powerful.” Keys, the Grammys’ first female host in 14 years, was joined on stage by a diverse group of powerful women: actor Jada Pinkett Smith, actor-singers Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga and former First Lady Michelle Obama. In addition to this female-powered opener, women heavily impacted the major award categories this year. All four of the top award categories had mostly female nominees; five of the eight nominees for Album of the Year were women. This is a dramatic change from last year’s Grammy awards, where Alessia Cara was notably the only woman presented a solo Grammy.
This year’s Album of the Year went to Kacey Musgraves’ third studio album “Golden Hour,” which also won Best Country Album. Musgraves took home two additional Grammys that night for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song. Childish Gambino also won four Grammys for his song “This Is America” as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Rap/ Sung Performance, making history as the first rap song awarded both best song and record.
After performing her latest single “Money,” rapper Cardi B won her first Grammy: Best Rap Album, for her first studio album “Invasion of Privacy.” BTS made history Sunday night as the first Korean-Pop group to present an award at the Grammys, awarding Best R&B Album to H.E.R.’s self-titled album.
Drake surprised viewers with an appearance Sunday night, his first since 2013, accepting Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan.” But even more surprising was his speech, which was abruptly cut off after he said that Grammy Awards are not the measurement of a musician’s success. “If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out [...] spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to your shows you don’t need this right here, I promise you. You already won,” Drake said before the music and other program coverage interrupted him.
This year’s Grammy Awards ceremony was full of performances honoring musical influencers. Jennifer Lopez led the tribute to Motown Records, the iconic record label from the ’60s, with Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo and the legendary Smokey Robinson. While J-Lo gave a great performance, many Twitter users felt that the platform was not meant for a non-black person. “HOW did we get to the point where someone thought a J Lo Motown tribute was ok during #BlackHistoryMonth?” tweeted digital magazine The Root. A tribute dedicated to Aretha Franklin, one of the most influential artists of all time, wowed the audience with a rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Fantasia, Yolanda Adams and Audra Day. Iconic diva Diana Ross performed a medley of her songs and Dolly Parton was honored with a spectacular performance by Parton with Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Miley Cyrus.
Some audiences at Mount Holyoke were critical of Sunday’s ceremony. Shreya Nair ’22 commented on how many fans were disappointed that Mac Miller did not win the Grammy he was nominated for posthumously. “They’ll do anything to get a better viewership even if that means not caring about families who’ve gone through something,” said Nair, criticizing what she saw as the show’s exploitation of emotional situations. “[It makes] the whole show fall flat on its face.”
Despite inspiring a surge of memes, Lady Gaga’s performance of “Shallow,” from the film “A Star Is Born,” demonstrated her invigorating style and ability to captivate an audience. Sunday night also surprised the audience with musical mash-up performances like Post Malone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Shawn Mendes and Miley Cyrus duetting Mendes’ hit single “In My Blood.” Travis Scott brought one of his own concerts to the Grammys, performing in a cage and stage-diving his small audience.
Overall, Sunday’s Grammy ceremony recognized women and people of color for their work, exceeding the 2018 Grammys’ lackluster representation of female artists.