The highs and lows at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
It’s weird that awards shows still exist. Back in the day before social media, before stars were a tap away on a mobile device we keep in close proximity to us at all times, awards shows were a time to catch up on our favs. Now that the artists we look up to have the ability to reflect what they want us to see through a one-way mirror on the daily, there’s no anticipation. The 61st annual Grammy Awards didn’t live up to the hype.
The show, which saw a dip in the ratings from last year (17.95 million viewers from 19.81 million in 2018), took place on Sunday (Feb. 10), and it brought its share of contrasting moments. At times, the near four-hour broadcast felt entertaining and heartfelt, but largely boring because of the insurmountable task to entertain us jaded millennials and the generation daring each other to eat Tide pods.
The festivities kicked off with a performance from Camila Cabello, who is still milking “Havana” for every last drop. The Recording Academy is notorious for choosing what artists can and can’t sing, so it’s probably their fault. It’s worth mentioning that Ariana Grande was supposed to attend, and probably would have opened the show instead had she not had a scuffle with the show’s executive producer and ultimately backed out (she won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal album, her first Grammy ever, so that’s a little awkward).
Camila’s performance, accompanied by J Balvin, Arturo Sandoval and Ricky Martin, was the first of many female-championed moments of the night. The Recording Academy knew what they were doing. In 2018, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said female artists needed to “step up” their game if they wanted to win more, which infuriated women in the industry because they already were stepping it up. The 2019 Grammys was jam-packed with female empowerment, beginning with host Alicia Keys. To be perfectly honest, I had very low expectations for Keys, but she was impressive. Her cool demeanor made for smooth transitions, but more importantly she reinforced how insanely talented she is. At one point, Keys was playing two separate pianos and singing simultaneously.
Another gleaming girl power moment came when Keys, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Obama and Jada Pinkett Smith joined forces to share the importance of music and what it means for us. AKA a reminder why we dedicated our Sunday evening to CBS.
Also stepping it up? Miley Cyrus, who performed “In My Blood” with Shawn Mendes (swoon), and played an integral role in Dolly Parton’s tribute performance. Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Katy Perry also participated in singing some of the icon’s classics. It was one of the highlights of the show, because doggonit Dolly deserves the world.
It was a night filled with legacy acts. Diana Ross performed to celebrate her 75th birthday in March. She demanded the crowd wave their arms during the performance and started calling those who didn’t “lazy.” I stan! She also stated several times, “happy birthday to me,” with arms wide open. I look forward to the day when I’m 75, wearing a red gown, making my friends sing karaoke and wishing myself a happy birthday. Bookmark me. Ross’ performance was a special reminder of how influential and timeless her music is.
Kacey Musgraves, who took home Grammys for Country Album of the Year and the coveted Album of the Year award, performed Golden Hour ballad, “Rainbow,” and it was beautiful, understated and elegant. Low-key hoped to hear “High Horse,” because how typical, but she didn’t disappoint.
Janelle Monáe had one of the best performances of the night. Her album, Dirty Computer, was a contender for Album of the Year, but instead it soaked up the spotlight on stage when Monáe sang a medley, including “Make Me Feel,” “Django Jane” and “Pynk.” She spliced robotic choreography in with fancy footwork and told the audience it was time to “let the ****** have a monologue.” Oh, oh wow ok welp. If that didn’t scream WOMEN RULE THE GRAMMYS NOW, I don’t know what does.
Lady Gaga performed Oscar nominated song, “Shallow,” with a bit of a rock & roll twist. Read more about that here.
Cardi B also injected some life into the snoozefest. She performed her most-recent release, “Money,” by twerking on top of a piano. Not long after, she took home the award for Best Rap Album, making her the first solo woman to win in that category.
Not every performance translated, however. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and rapper Post Malone thought it’d be a good idea to assault our brains with a collaboration. After a couple of his hits, Post joined the band for “Dark Necessities.” It was something no one wanted, but it happened anyway.
Then there was JLo’s tribute to Motown. The record label produced hits from artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Temptations. The obvious question is why didn’t the higher ups choose an African American to perform? Lopez is a problematic choice considering how widely scrutinized she is for cultural appropriation in her past works and hiding behind voices like Ashanti or Christina Milian. Motown’s VP, Smoky Robinson, thinks otherwise. “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset,” he said in an interview prior to the show. “I think anyone who is upset is stupid.”
One of my favorite moments of the night came from Drake, a sentence I never thought I’d say. He’s had a rocky relationship with the Recording Academy for years and usually opts not to attend. When “God’s Plan” won for Best Rap Song, ****! There he was. In his speech, Drizzy started to shade the Grammys, and it was the most honest offerings of the entire telecast. Unfortunately, producers conveniently cut him off mid-sentence and went to commercial break (producers claim it’s all a misunderstanding – they were under the impression he was done speaking). Here’s what he had to say:
“[To] the kids watching, those aspiring to do music, and all my peers that make music from their heart, that do things pure and tell the truth” to “know we play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. It is not the NBA… This is a business where sometimes it is up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say… or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis. You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you are a hero in your hometown. If there is people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you, you already won.”
Who knew it’d be Drake that’d provide the most wisdom? I have to agree. As the years trickle along, I find myself caring less and less about who wins what, the amount of viewers, the hits, the likes etc because none of that translates to what great music means. There are hundreds of budding musicians that produce great music, but don’t get recognized because mega stars generate more traffic and money. It’s a rat race to get the winners list, performances and highlights up on the blog as quickly as possible in an effort to secure a higher ranking on Google, which often takes a front seat over authenticity of what’s touted as music’s biggest night. Can’t we just get back to the muuusic?
What should you take away from BreatheHeavy’s Grammys review? Girls still run the world, Dolly Parton and Diana Ross are my spirit animals and the 2019 Grammys were painfully long.