There’s one night when everyone in music comes together.
For the most part, anyway.
On Sunday night at the Grammy Awards, the biggest names in rap, pop, hip-hop, rock and country gathered to honor each other.
Except, of course, for Childish Gambino, who wasn’t there despite tying for most awards of the night. The rapper, real name Donald Glover, took home four awards: record of the year, song of the year, best rap/sung performance and best music video.
Country-pop singer Kacey Musgraves also nabbed four: album of the year, best country album, best country solo performance, best country song.
Though they were the big winners, they were far from the only things happening on the Grammy stage. I tuned in Sunday night, watching every minute of the nearly four-hour show.
Here are the best, the worst, the good and the bad of the 2019 Grammy Awards.
The opening speeches from Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez were awesome. A year after women were poorly represented at “music’s biggest night,” it was great to see an empowering start to the night. “Who run the world?” Keys asked. And everyone shouted: “Girls!” It was a great moment followed by Keys turning to the camera to say, “Tonight we celebrate the greatness in each other — in all of us — through music!”
Had you heard of H.E.R.? It’s OK if not. Most people hadn’t. But the singer took home some gold and turned in an amazing performance where she sang, played guitar and was joined by a huge choir and multitude of musicians. Oh, and did I mention her voice is incredible? Count me as a fan.
Drake stepped up to take the award for best rap song and then delivered a rousing (and rebuking) acceptance speech honoring his fellow nominees and, well, writing off the Grammys: “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and 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.”
I didn’t expect this one, but Dua Lipa and St. Vincent combined their songs, “Masseduction” and “One Kiss,” into a mash-up showing off each other’s skills — St. Vincent the guitar god and Dua Lipa the powerhouse singer.
Alicia Keys was the best host the Grammys has had in years. Please bring her back. Having watched this thing quite a few times, it needs someone like her. She’s warm. She’s fun. She’s has a connection to music. (Obviously.) She’s everything a host needs to be.
I got actual chills watching Brandi Carlile sing “The Joke.” In the best show of pure talent throughout the entire ceremony, Carlile played her empowering and touching ballad, showing her songwriting, her guitar playing and her vocal power.
The Dolly Parton tribute was good but uneven. It featured a great guest list, but Katy Perry leaned too hard into every vocal run, Miley Cyrus dropped into a southern accent for some reason and what was Little Big Town doing there? But Dolly deserves the honor and the new song she unveiled was worth the wait.
In a cool show of talent, Alicia Keys covered Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”), Kings of Leon (“Use Somebody”), Ella Mai (“Boo’d Up”), Lauryn Hill (“Doo-Wop”), among others, before doing her own song, “Empire State of Mind.” It was cool.
Travis Scott’s rousing performance was a surprise. It started slow, but then he rapped rapid-fire from a cage before stage-diving into the gathered crowd and stood among them while he spit even more rhymes.
Post Malone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were simply weak. Post strummed a guitar, then tried to rap a little. Then the Chilis did their best to save the performance with their own song, but it was so uneven. At least the Chili Peppers were the best-dressed people at the Grammys.
The presenters were occasionally interesting choices. There were NFL players and a long line of random CBS stars. I know it’s a chance to promote the network where this thing airs, but it seemed they couldn’t care less about it being a music event.
Lady Gaga’s solo performance of “Shallow,” her duet with Bradley Cooper from “A Star Is Born,” was not good. There was no Bradley Cooper or, uh, anyone else to be her foil, which is one of the things that grounds that song. Instead, she did both parts, dropping her voice down to do the Cooper parts. It was weird, and not in a good way. Then she went full-Gaga, turning the overrated song into an overwrought performance.
Remember Drake’s speech. Yes, it was damning of the Grammys. But it was also about remembering that, awards or not, every artist is a superstar. But that didn’t stop CBS from cutting him off. Weak.
The ceremony was entirely overlong. I expected a three-hour show, but it was pushing four hours when it gratefully came to a close. Quite a bit could have been cut, including the multiple tributes to legendary artists. (They were all deserving, but together were a bit much.) Then the unmemorable performances from Camilla Cabello, Shawn Mendes, Dan + Shay, Post Malone/RHCP and Chloe X Halle, among others, could have been cut.
The show’s pacing was all over the place. It was plodding at first and rapid-fire at the end. There were quiet numbers drowned out by epic jams. There were no awards for awhile and then a scramble to get the final awards called before the show ended. It took until halfway into the show before it felt like it was hitting its stride, but that meant the performances from the first hour were largely forgettable.