ALI­CIA KEYS SET THE TONE

The warm host and 15-time Grammy win­ner’s smooth and as­sured man­ner kept things up­beat and on track.

Los Angeles Times - - THE GRAMMYS - By Nardine Saad

Grammy Awards host Ali­cia Keys made good on her prom­ise to “en­sure peace” and “good en­ergy” in the room — and she did it with the help of Lady Gaga, Jen­nifer Lopez, Jada Pin­kett Smith and for­mer First Lady Michelle Obama.

The 15-time Grammy win­ner, dubbed a “mu­si­cal su­per­woman,” stepped out to a stand­ing ova­tion and wel­comed a quar­tet of su­per­women on­stage with her at the 61st Grammy Awards on Sun­day night to con­vey a pos­i­tive, up­lift­ing — even heal­ing — mes­sage of unity through mu­sic.

“Do you feel that love in the build­ing? This is love. This is life. This is liv­ing. This is light, and all be­cause of mu­sic. Mu­sic is so pow­er­ful,” Keys said.

The en­ter­tainer said she wanted ev­ery­body to feel a lit­tle less ner­vous and let their “shoul­ders drop” be­cause she was at the helm, and she gave shout-outs to sev­eral of the evening’s hon­orees, mostly women.

“Mu­sic is what we all love,” she said. “Mu­sic is what we cry to. It’s what we march to. It’s what we rock to. It’s what we make love to. It’s our shared global lan­guage. And if you re­ally want to say some­thing, you say it with a song.”

She then in­tro­duced her “sis­ters,” who walked down­stage hand in hand to the de­light of the cheer­ing au­di­ence in­side Sta­ples Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les.

“They said I was weird,” Gaga said. “That my look, my choices, my sound — that it wouldn’t work. But mu­sic told me not to lis­ten to them. Mu­sic took my ears. Took my hands. My voice and my soul. And it led me to all of you and to my Lit­tle Mon­sters [fans], who I love so much.”

For Lopez, who grew up in the Bronx, mu­sic gave her a rea­son to dance, whether hip-hop, free-style, pop, soul or salsa.

“It re­minds me where I come from, but it also re­minds me of all the places that I can go. Mu­sic has al­ways been the one place we can all feel truly free,” Lopez said.

Pin­kett Smith, mind­ful of the di­vi­sive­ness na­tion­wide, noted that “ev­ery voice we hear de­serves to be hon­ored and re­spected.”

Obama, who got the loud­est cheers, also ex­pressed what mu­sic has meant for her.

“From the Mo­town records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘Who Run the World’ songs that fu­eled me through the last decade. Mu­sic has al­ways helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for ev­ery­body here,” she said.

“Mu­sic helps us share our­selves, our dig­ni­ties and sor­rows, our hopes and joys. It al­lows to hear one an­other, to in­vite each other in. Mu­sic shows us that all of it mat­ters.”

Keys, paus­ing to take it all in, then dou­bled down on the mes­sage, say­ing that “tonight we cel­e­brate the great­ness in each other through mu­sic.”

She then asked, “Who runs the world?” cit­ing Bey­oncé 2011 an­them. The host took the stage af­ter Camila Ca­bello’s “Ha­vana,” a starstud­ded show opener fea­tur­ing Ricky Martin and J Balvin and danced along to part of it. The “Girl on Fire” has been a stead­fast cham­pion of fe­male au­then­tic­ity and nat­u­ral beauty, fur­ther high­lighted by her 2016 #no­makeup res­o­lu­tion, predilec­tions she ad­hered to dur­ing Sun­day’s show.

The en­ter­tainer took on host­ing du­ties a year af­ter out­go­ing Record­ing Academy Pres­i­dent Neil Port­now re­sponded to a 2018 post­show ques­tion about the male-cen­tric re­sults dur­ing the show by im­plor­ing women in mu­sic to “step up.”

Speak­ing to re­porters be­fore Sun­day’s show, Keys said she felt blessed to have been on the Gram­mys stage mul­ti­ple times be­fore.

“I un­der­stand what it is and what it feels like, and I know what the artists are go­ing through,” she said. “I’m re­ally ex­cited about the nat­u­ral­ness of it all.”

Keys later took the stage to per­form an im­pres­sive du­el­ing-pi­ano med­ley of sorts that included songs by Ella Mai, Drake, Kings of Leon, Lau­ryn Hill and more, salut­ing past and present win­ners with words of grat­i­tude and awe.

Pho­to­graphs by Robert Gauthier Los An­ge­les Times

A FOR­MI­DA­BLE lineup of Lady Gaga, left, Jada Pin­kett Smith, Ali­cia Keys, Michelle Obama and Jen­nifer Lopez gather on­stage Sun­day at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

AT THE KEY­BOARDS as well as play­ing host, Keys sits down at the pi­ano to per­form at the 61st Grammy Awards show.

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