While accepting the award for finest new artist on the Grammy Awards Sunday night time, Dua Lipa began her speech by saying she was honored “to be nominated alongside so many unimaginable feminine artists.” With a wry smile, she added, “I suppose we actually stepped up this yr.”
Following Dua Lipa to the stage was none apart from outgoing Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who infamously defined the earlier yr’s abject failure to acknowledge feminine expertise on the music trade’s greatest night time by saying ladies who needed extra recognition on the Grammys wanted to “step up.” His gaffe — awkwardly walked again and in the end apologized for — snapped what had been already strained by an awards ceremony that noticed just one lady, Alessia Cara, win a televised award, and which did not grant Lorde, the one feminine nominee for album of the yr, a solo efficiency slot.
This yr’s present was clearly the results of the Grammys getting berated into addressing its gender points. The origin story isn’t precisely flattering. However for what it’s value, on Sunday night time there have been indicators of life, of progress, of — if nothing else — proof that Grammys producer Ken Erlich knew the optics could be unforgivable if the present weren’t stacked with feminine performers and presenters.
The night time started with Camila Cabello’s exuberant rendition of “Havana” — for which she was joined by Ricky Martin, Arturo Sandoval, J Balvin, and Younger Thug — right into a welcome from host Alicia Keys, adopted instantly by the oh-so-casual entrance of Michelle Obama, who was flanked by Girl Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Absolutely this FLOTUS cameo was assisted by Tina Tchen, Obama’s former chief of workers, now the top of the Recording Academy’s activity pressure on range and inclusion, a gaggle that was fashioned final yr to deal with documented gender inequality throughout the Academy and the music trade extra broadly.
The highest of the present was nearly completely feminine: Girl Gaga accepted night time’s first award when “Shallow” gained finest pop duo/group efficiency (Bradley Cooper was on the BAFTAs and couldn’t be part of her and/or pee onstage throughout her speech). Miley Cyrus joined Shawn Mendes for his single, “In My Blood,” after which Kacey Musgraves — whose Golden Hour gained all 4 awards it was up for, together with album of the yr — sang “Rainbow.” After Musgraves got here Janelle Monae, whose rendition of “Make Me Really feel” was backed by a electrifying fleet of feminine dancers, a few of whom wore these vagina pants from Monae’s video for “Pink.”
On this approach, the Grammys prevented placing males onstage sans ladies till almost an hour into the telecast, when Publish Malone (ugh) and the Pink Scorching Chili Peppers broke that streak. However quickly the lads went again to their seats and had been all however erased from current reminiscence by a Dolly Parton-led tribute to Dolly Parton — an icon amongst us! — that featured Musgraves, Maren Morris, Miley Cyrus, Little Large City, and a borderline-manic Katy Perry.
It feels ridiculous to group all these ladies collectively as if “feminine” is a style, particularly given the dazzling vary on show: a grand however playful Cardi B., who grew to become the primary feminine solo artist to win the Grammy for finest rap album; the plush, highly effective guitar of H.E.R., who gained two of the 5 Grammys for which she was nominated, together with finest R&B album; the beautiful vocals of Brandi Carlile, who went three for six final night time; the incomparable Diana Ross who, like Dolly Parton, carried out a tribute to herself and likewise shouted “Pleased birthday to me!” regardless that her birthday is over a month away. So what? Are you going to inform Diana Ross when she’s allowed to start out celebrating her 75th yr on this Earth?
There was exuberance and glee and defiance in all of those performances. It’s nearly as if the Grammys telecast would have been higher all these years if it had been frontloading this type of expertise from the bounce: Girls who signify the complete spectrum of what’s thrilling and genuine about music proper now. The Grammys, like different intellectual awards exhibits, has struggled to stability rising stars with its reverence for (learn: obsession with) its personal historical past. However Sunday night time’s present appeared to be honing in on a billing that revered historical past with out reducing off the longer term at its knees.
Buzzing beneath the entire night time’s proceedings was that feeling solely made express by Dua Lipa: That this was all an elaborate corrective and/or a very concerned apology to Lorde. Would that it didn’t take such an enormous failure for the Grammys to course-correct.
Is this a case of higher late than by no means, or is it simply too late?
The Grammy Awards are the largest night time in music, or so the Recording Academy continues to insist regardless of its ever-diminishing visitor checklist. This yr, the Academy did not safe a “sure” RSVP from Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Infantile Gambino, and 21 Savage — the final one being the one particular person on that checklist who really couldn’t make it, as a result of the rapper, a double nominee this night, stays within the custody of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement company, the place he has been detained since his arrest final Sunday.
The conspicuous absence of the aforementioned artists — besides, that’s, for when Grande appeared in an Apple’s Animoji business and Donald Glover danced in an advert for a brand new Google telephone — gave the Grammys’ repeated insistence that they completely, undoubtedly matter the identical determined, hole air of the drunk lady on the waning occasion cheering about how she’s having the perfect time ever!!
These no-shows are signs of the Recording Academy’s deep, systemic failings, which aren’t so totally different from the failings music trade extra broadly: Racism, sexism, and the denial that both is kind of as dire as critics declare. Artists of shade are so incessantly neglected within the massive 4 classes that it’s turning into a brand new Grammys custom for white artists to publicly apologize for successful what they know they didn’t deserve.
So, the place was everybody?
Ariana Grande, simply the among the many most prolific and cultural-conversation-dominating pop artists of the yr, introduced Thursday that she could be pulling out of a deliberate Grammys efficiency. Reviews on how the conflict fluctuate, however Grande, who launched a brand new album this week, tweeted that “it was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you [Grammy producer Ken Erlich], that i made a decision to not attend.” Selection reported that Grande’s staff was additionally livid to see Grande’s picture utilized in billboards and promoting to advertise the awards present, contemplating there was no dedication for her participation. She wound up successful her first-ever Grammy for finest pop vocal album, however she spent the night time at residence within the customized Zac Posen robe she’d deliberate to put on on the purple carpet.
Erlich mentioned the Grammys additionally provided up efficiency slots to Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Infantile Gambino. However all three declined. Because the ceremony approached, not one of the artists would even affirm whether or not or not they deliberate to attend. Drake, for one, hadn’t attended the Grammys since 2013. He confirmed up in spite of everything, successful finest rap tune for “God’s Plan,” however Lamar, presumably probably the most egregious of the current Grammys snubs, opted out. Infantile Gambino’s “This Is America” gained 4 awards, together with tune of the yr, however Glover wasn’t in attendance to simply accept any of them himself.
Jay-Z and Beyonce’s All the things is Love was shut out of all the key classes; clearly the Carters had higher issues to do than wait round to choose up that coveted “city up to date” trophy they didn’t even know they’d win. Taylor Swift, whose Status was up for finest pop vocal album, spent the night on the BAFTA Awards in London as her boyfriend’s plus-one. Certain, she’s additionally filming Cats in London. But when the Grammys had been at the least as culturally important as Swift, she’d doubtless make it her enterprise to attend.
Is there any level in believing in a ceremony that commonly fails to provide its highest honors to the worthiest recipients? Is there any salvaging a present that so constantly errs? As pointless because it appears to care in regards to the Grammys and their capacity to dole out these awards in some truthful and significant approach, possibly there may be, in the end, a purpose for cautious optimism. It appears clear that the brand new system, the place the large 4 awards (finest new artist, plus album, file and tune of the yr) have eight nominees, up from 5 in years previous, is creating the area for extra numerous artists to have a shot at extra prime prizes. Perhaps this yr’s ceremony — whose awards had been voted on by a much bigger and extra numerous physique than ever earlier than — is a preview of higher Grammy nights to come back.