Show put stars in won­drous light

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Style & Seen - By Scott Mervis

Maybe you can’t ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery last thing the pop world is do­ing in 2019. At least you don’t fall asleep while some­one is giv­ing the ac­cep­tance speech for best hair and makeup.

The Gram­mys, un­like that awards show com­ing up in two weeks, turned out to be an­other fast-mov­ing af­fair that showed the artists in their nat­u­ral habi­tat, with an oc­ca­sional award in­ter­rupt­ing the pro­ceed­ings.

It seemed to cover all gen­res — mov­ing from Janelle Monae to the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers to Dolly Par­ton to Cardi B with­out blink­ing — while also spot­light­ing al­ter­na­tive artists like St. Vin­cent and Brandi Carlile.

Here are some highs and lows from Sun­day’s show:

Camila Ca­bello’s “Ha­vana” came out in Septem­ber 2017, so it was hardly the fresh­est song of the night. Nonethe­less, it was a smokin’ hot opener on a lavish Broad­way-style set with Ricky Martin adding to the Latin fire­works.

Katy Perry is an ex­cel­lent choice to launch a Dolly Par­ton trib­ute, be­cause it can only get bet­ter from there, and it did with the ar­rival of Miley Cyrus for a fine “Jo­lene” duet with Dolly and a soar­ing “Af­ter the Gold Rush,” even if it did nix Neil Young’s line about getting high. Lit­tle Big Town brought it to the proper cli­max.

While “Dark Ne­ces­si­ties” may not be the most ex­plo­sive song out of the gate, the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, rep­re­sent­ing old guys who rock, even­tu­ally got there in their jam with Post Malone.

H.E.R. — who prob­a­bly had a lot of peo­ple at home say­ing “who?” — had the evening’s best take-it-tochurch mo­ment, with her choir and lu­cite gui­tar.

Her street style’s not for ev­ery­one, but Bronx strip­per-turned-rap sen­sa­tion Cardi B left not a shred of doubt that she’s an en­ter­tainer. She also took the best rap album award that could have gone to Mac Miller, who got just a quick men­tion dur­ing the In Me­mo­riam seg­ment.

For­mer Mac tour­mate Travis Scott de­liv­ered one of the most phys­i­cal per­for­mances of the night, jump­ing back­ward out of a cage. The most phys­i­cal was J-Lo, whose vibe was more Tina Turner than Mo­town trib­ute.

Drake, ac­cept­ing best rap song for “God’s Plan,” gave the mo­ti­va­tional speech of the night, telling young, striv­ing artists, “You’ve al­ready won if you have peo­ple singing your songs, if you’re a hero in your home­town.”

No dis­re­spect to Diana Ross. She did her diva thing and roused the crowd on her 75th birth­day. Just wish­ing that rather than back-to­back blowout bal­lads, it had been some­thing more Supreme. Add to that the un­com­fort­able feel­ing that at any mo­ment she was go­ing to trip on that red dress.

Do­ing “Shal­low” as Ally Maine, the char­ac­ter in “A Star Is Born,” was too pre­dictable for Lady Gaga, who took it over the top into glam-rock per­for­mance art. Even if you didn’t like the in­y­our-face ap­proach, there’s no de­bat­ing the power of the vo­cals. On gui­tar was Allderdice grad Jonny Goood, a mem­ber of her tour­ing band.

Speak­ing of gui­tar, those who stayed up late were re­warded with a mass-se­duc­tive duet be­tween gui­tar god­dess St. Vin­cent and Dua Lipa look­ing al­most like mir­ror im­ages of each other.

De­spite all the star power flank­ing her In Me­mo­riam — fine host Ali­cia Keys, Lady Gaga, Jen­nifer Lopez and Jada Pin­kett Smith — one of the most ec­static re­cep­tions of the night was for Michelle Obama, stand­ing be­fore a crowd that seemed down­right nos­tal­gic for a by­gone era of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

Brandi Carlile won best roots per­for­mance and Amer­i­can roots song, de­servedly so, for “The Joke,” which was the stand­out vo­cal per­for­mance of the year, as she dis­played on stage. The singer from the Seat­tle area, who was at KeyBank Pav­il­ion in Septem­ber to play the Out­law Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, thanked her wife and two daugh­ters and said, “Amer­i­cana mu­sic is the is­land of mis­fit toys. I am one of those mis­fits.” She also won best Amer­i­cana album for “By the Way, I For­give You.”

Best tra­di­tional blues album is a vir­tual lock for Buddy Guy, the reign­ing king of the blues, who won an­other one for “The Blues Is Alive and Well.” He thanked the crowd in the Pre­miere Cer­e­mony for the stand­ing ova­tion, say­ing he doesn’t get that very of­ten, but clearly he was just be­ing mod­est.

Leg­endary jazz sax­o­phon­ist Wayne Shorter, 85, took the stage in a wheel­chair to ac­cept the Grammy for best jazz in­stru­men­tal album for “Emanon” and thanked his la­bels and sup­porter for al­low­ing him to “take a trail less trod­den.”

Back in 1974, Ste­vie Won­der’s “In­nervi­sions” beat Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for album engi­neer­ing. The “Dark Side” en­gi­neer was the leg­endary Alan Par­sons, who also en­gi­neered The Bea­tles’ “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be,” among many oth­ers. He won his first Grammy, for pro­duc­tion, im­mer­sive au­dio, for the Alan Par­sons Project’s “Eye in the Sky: 35th An­niver­sary Edi­tion.”

In a pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal mo­ment, the best large jazz ensem­ble album went to the John Daversa Big Band for “Amer­i­can Dream­ers: Voices of Hope, Mu­sic of Free­dom,” a work fea­tur­ing more than 50 “Dream­ers,” some of whom filled the stage to ac­cept the Grammy.

In the most touch­ing mo­ment of the Pre­miere Cer­e­mony, two of Chris Cor­nell’s kids ac­cepted a post­hu­mous Grammy for the late Soundgar­den singer, who took his own life at 52 in 2017. Ac­cept­ing the best rock per­for­mance for “When Bad Does Good,” daugh­ter Toni said, “His voice was his vi­sion, and his mu­sic was his peace.”

Child­ish Gam­bino snatched record of the year, song of the year, mu­sic video and best rap/sung per­for­mance for “This Is Amer­ica,” the star­tling Black Lives Mat­ter state­ment that shocked Amer­ica when it hit YouTube in May. Un­for­tu­nately, he was up to some­thing some­where else.

Same with Ari­ana Grande, who beat Tay­lor Swift, Kelly Clark­son and more to win her first-ever Grammy for pop vo­cal album. Mac Miller’s for­mer flame said “no thank u” to the Gram­mys af­ter a dis­pute over her per­for­mance and stayed home.

It was ex­cit­ing to see album of the year win­ner Kacey Mus­graves, one of the genre’s fresh­est voices for years now, on the Grammy slate, but the pi­ano bal­lad “Rain­bow, pretty though it may be, didn’t show her do­ing what she does best. We got a slightly bet­ter taste of that dur­ing the Dolly trib­ute.

Greta Van Fleet, a vir­tual Led Zep trib­ute band, win­ning best rock album over a pretty weak field goes to show how lit­tle thought the Gram­mys put into best rock album. And what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween best rock album and best al­ter­na­tive rock album, any­way? All these years later, still no one knows.

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