LADIES’ NIGHT AT THE GRAM­MYS

Hip-hop also has big night as Child­ish Gam­bino wins song of the year

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Jim Har­ring­ton jhar­ring­[email protected] ba­yare­anews­group.com

LOS AN­GE­LES >> Women dom­i­nated the spot­light at the 61st an­nual Grammy Awards.

Fe­male artists were front and cen­ter through­out the awards cer­e­mony at Los An­ge­les’ Sta­ples Cen­ter on Sun­day night. Kacey Mus­graves won al­bum of the year hon­ors for “Golden Hour,” and she, along with Janelle Monae, Camila Ca­bello, Lady Gaga, Vallejo’s own H.E.R. and Diana Ross, were high­lights of the show.

The evening stood in stark con­trast to the 2018 awards show, which drew mas­sive crit­i­cism for not in­clud­ing enough fe­male artists and down­right dis­dain for Grammy Pres­i­dent Neil Port­now sug­gest­ing that women need to “step up” in the in­dus­try.

Be­sides the much-de­served spot­light on fe­male artists, the 2019 Gram­mys have been no­table for hon­or­ing hip-hop in a way that vot­ers had never done be­fore, as Child­ish Gam­bino’s “This Is Amer­ica” won for both song and record of

the year. It marked the first time that a hip-hop song had won in ei­ther cat­e­gory.

Here are some of the defin­ing mo­ments of the cer­e­mony:

To “Ha­vana”

The 61st an­nual Gram­mys got off to a strong start as Ca­bello opened the show with a star-stud­ded ver­sion of her mega-hit “Ha­vana.” It was fes­tive, fun and full of fire­works, as Ca­bello boo­gied along­side Young Thug, J Balvin, Ricky Martin and, best of all, Ar­turo San­doval, the

Cuban jazz leg­end. We just wish that pro­duc­ers would have given San­doval a lit­tle more time to shine with his trum­pet dur­ing the seg­ment.

Ali­cia Keys as host

Keys, a multi-Grammy win­ner her­self, turned out to be a great host. She didn’t tell jokes or try to be funny. She didn’t do any­thing other than be her­self. And that was more than enough. She deeply loves mu­sic, and that was deeply ob­vi­ous when she was at the mi­cro­phone.

“Mu­sic is what we cry to. It’s what we march to. It’s what to rock to. It’s what we make love to,” she told the crowd early in the night. “It’s our shared global lan­guage. And when you re­ally want to say some­thing, you say it with a song.”

A lit­tle help from her friends

Keys has some pow­er­ful pals, and she proved it as she called out four women — Lady Gaga, Jada Pin­kett Smith, Jen­nifer Lopez and Michelle Obama — to join her on­stage.

Obama, who has been on a sold-out book tour, got the big­gest re­sponse of the bunch. And, as she’s known to do, she used the spot­light to in­spire those around here.

“Mu­sic has al­ways been the one place we can feel truly free,” Obama said. “Mu­sic has al­ways helped me tell my story. And I know that is true for ev­ery­one

here. Whether we like coun­try or rap or rock, mu­sic helps us share our­selves — our dig­nity and sor­rows, our hopes and joys. It al­lows us to hear one an­other — to in­vite each other in. Mu­sic shows us that all of it mat­ters — ev­ery story within ev­ery voice, ev­ery note within ev­ery song.”

Gaga gets real

Lady Gaga thanked her duet part­ner Bradley Cooper — who di­rected and costarred

with her in “A Star Is Born” — as she ac­cepted the Grammy for best pop duo/group per­for­mance for “Shal­low.” She then ad­dressed one of the ma­jor top­ics in the song’s par­ent film, “A Star Is Born.”

“If I don’t get an­other chance to say this, I just want to say that I am so proud to be a part of a movie that ad­dresses men­tal health is­sues,” Gaga said. “They are so im­por­tant. A lot of artists deal with that. And we have got to take care of each other. So, if you see some­body that is hurt­ing, don’t look away. And if you are hurt­ing, even though it might be hard, try to find that brav­ery within your­self to dive deep and tell some­body and take them up in your head with you.”

What a “Rain­bow”

Hav­ing al­ready won two Gram­mys, Mus­graves took the Grammy stage and turned in an ab­so­lutely stun­ning ver­sion of “Rain­bow.” It was as if the Earth had come to a stand­still as the coun­try singer-song­writer softly crooned the bal­lad, ac­com­pa­nied solely by pi­ano. It was the lat­est, and ar­guably great­est, star turn for this long­time critic’s fa­vorite, who per­forms Sat­ur­day at the Ma­sonic in San Fran­cisco.

Meet H.E.R.

Vallejo in the house! North­ern Cal­i­for­nia R&B pow­er­house H.E.R. (the stage name for Gabriella Wil­son) isn’t a house­hold name, hav­ing only one al­bum to her credit.

But she prob­a­bly made roughly 5 mil­lion new fans on this night as she de­liv­ered a head-turn­ing ver­sion of her song “Hard Place,” fea­tur­ing some fine vo­cals and dy­na­mite guitar licks. She later won the Grammy for best R&B al­bum but was beat out for new artist by Dua Lipa.

Carlile rules

We’re still catch­ing our breath af­ter watch­ing the amaz­ing per­for­mance by Brandi Carlile, who used the show­case to il­lus­trate ex­actly why she was the most nom­i­nated fe­male artist at this year’s Gram­mys. No spe­cial ef­fects. No gim­micks. No guest stars. Just pure tal­ent, as Carlile de­liv­ered what will likely be re­mem­bered as the most pow­er­ful per­for­mance at this year’s show.

Funk it up

The most de­light­fully funki­est mo­ment came with Monae’s per­for­mance of “Make Me Feel,” which also, no sur­prise, ranked as the steami­est mo­ment of the show.

Monae seemed to be chan­nel­ing the spirit of Prince, writhing about on the floor like the Pur­ple One once did with “Dar­ling Nikki.”

The scene was spacey, fu­tur­is­tic and dar­ing, as Monae boo­gied about with a le­gion of groovy pals and de­manded: “Let the vagina have a mono­logue.”

Dolly Par­ton trib­ute

Every­body loves Dolly, right? So it was hardly a sur­prise that the trib­ute to the leg­endary coun­try star — named this year’s Mu­si­Cares Per­son of the Year — was a def­i­nite high­light of this year’s Gram­mys. The lengthy all-star med­ley seg­ment fea­tured Mus­graves, Katy Perry, Par­ton her­self (of course), Mi­ley Cyrus, Maren Mor­ris and Lit­tle Big Town.

Happy birth­day, Diana

The 61st an­nual Grammy Awards also dou­bled as a big birth­day bash for the Supremely tal­ented Ross, who showed up to the bash in an amaz­ing red gown and sounded strong as she sang be­fore the star-stud­ded au­di­ence.

Ross turns 75 in March.

KEVIN WIN­TER — GETTY IM­AGES

Lady Gaga, from left, Jada Pin­kett Smith, Ali­cia Keys, Michelle Obama and Jen­nifer Lopez on­stage dur­ing the 61st an­nual Grammy Awards at Sta­ples Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les on Sun­day.

EMMA MCINTYRE — GETTY IM­AGES

Dolly Par­ton and Mi­ley Cyrus per­form dur­ing the 61st an­nual Grammy Awards at Sta­ples Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les on Sun­day night.

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