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The 2019 Grammy Awards
Feb 11, 2019 at 02:55 PM
Photo by Patrick Fort

The Quick Facts

  • Last night was the 61st Grammy Awards ceremony, hosted by 15 Grammy award-winner Alicia Keys.
  • The Recording Academy is coming off a rocky year, dealing with the fallout from president Neil Portnow's comment after last year's show that women in music should "step up" if they want recognition, as well as some general industry-wide criticism over the Academy's failure to recognize and reward diverse artists.   
  • This year, Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year for Golden Hour, and Childish Gambino won Song of the Year for “This is America.”
  • Other major awards were given to Cardi B, Dua Lipa, and Drake. Notable appearances and performances included  Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Dolly Parton.
  • Some of the music industry’s biggest stars were not in attendance last night, including Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, the Carters and Kanye West. Drake made a surprise appearance, but took aim at the Grammys with his acceptance speech, telling young artists “you don’t need this right here,” while gesturing to his trophy.

Food For Thought

What worked at last night’s Grammy Awards, and what didn’t? Are the Grammys still relevant?

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Vox

The Grammys were good this year

Todd VanDerWerff
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Our Commentary

This commentary from Vox by Todd VanDerWerff offers these sorts of perspectives:

  • Last year’s Grammys were one of the worst awards shows ever, so many expected this year to be only a slight improvement. But the Grammys exceeded expectation; instead, they were “sprightly and fun, zipping along from big moment to big moment.”
  • One of the best things about this year’s Grammys was how it celebrated women “at all levels of the industry.” This was a big year for women in music, and the Grammys knew to just “get out of the way” and let those women shine.
  • Lastly, the Grammys succeeded due to a stellar host and excellent directing. Alicia Keys’ wild, fun performance paired with Director Horvitz’s “majestic wide shots” made for a terrific night of live television.

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Standard Digital

Women reign at glitzy Grammys gala that also makes rap history

Our Commentary

This commentary from Standard Digital makes these kinds of observations:

  • The Grammys this year were mostly a success, mainly due to the “bold streak of feminism” that ran through the gala. One of the highlights was a surprise appearance by Michelle Obama, who delighted the audience with a “strong message about diversity and female empowerment.”
  • Overall, the night provided hope that “some change may be afoot at the Recording Academy,” which is sorely needed after years of struggling to embrace diversity.
  • Alicia Keys was the perfect host for this night of empowerment, and she "ended the feel-good show with a line to match: ‘Let's keep listening and loving each other.’”

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The Irish Times

Grammy Awards: Still tone deaf as female artists ‘step up’ but others stay at home

Our Commentary

In this opinion piece from The Irish Times, Ed Power makes these types of points:

  • The Grammys event this year was clearly an attempt at damage control, after many have come to view the Grammys as representing the worst of the music industry. “Did it work? Not entirely.”
  • There were some good moments this year, and host Alicia Keys displayed genuine enthusiasm, but “underneath the shiny surface this was in many ways the same old Grammys.”
  • Overall, this year made some progress, but the absences of figures like Childish Gambino (AKA actor Donald Glover) and Kendrick Lamar “spoke as loudly as the performances.” Glober’s snub is evidence of ongoing bad blood, “underscoring just how out of touch the Grammys remain.”

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The Atlantic

Drake Cements the Grammys’ Irrelevance

Hannah Giorgis
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Our Commentary

In this analysis from The Atlantic, Hannah Giorgis includes these sorts of opinions:

  • This year’s Grammy awards was a dud, and Alicia Keys was “flatter than the hair she hid under an ill-advised scarf.”
  • Throughout the ceremony, artists refused to acknowledge or address the “industry’s failures to reward the commercially and critically successful work of female musicians and artists of color” in the past.
  • The one exception was Drake, who used his acceptance speech to critique the institution— his tone “echoed industry-wide whispers of the Recording Academy’s obsolescence,” and marked “a clear sign of further artist divestment from the annual ceremony.” Tellingly, the broadcast cut to a commercial before Drake could even finish.

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