The 60th annual Grammy Awards took place in New York City for the first time in 15 years. The ceremony was opened by rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose dramatic theatrics were perfectly suited for the city that never sleeps.
Performing songs “XXX” and “DNA” from his revolutionary album DAMN, the artist did not shy away from special effects and harsh political statements, crafting his opening into an emotionally challenging and vehemently captivating display of his talent. Even occasional poignant interjections by the comedian Dave Chappelle brought wholesomeness to this rap spectacle, setting a tone for the night that was full of surprises.
Chappelle presented Best Rap Album, which appropriately went to Lamar, who ended up sweeping the Rap categories and even casually endorsing Jay-Z for U.S. president. Chappelle himself later returned to the stage to accept the Grammy for Best Comedy Album — the first time this category was televised during the ceremony in decades.
The most triumphant artist of the night was Bruno Mars, who swept all the major awards. Mars collected Song and Record of the Year for “That’s What I Like” and “24K Magic,” respectively, and Album of the Year for 24K Magic. Mars showed his chops as a performer with his live rendition of “Finesse,” joined by the joyous Cardi B, but his awards leave the highly consequential and challenging works by Lamar, Jay Z, Lorde and Childish Gambino uncelebrated. Gambino, aka Donald Glover in the non-musical world, showcased his unhinged raw talent during the night’s most endearing moment with “Terrified” from Awaken, My Love!, offering a view of what could have been considered a less safe choice to be awarded.
Still, the Grammys offered a variety of note-worthy moments. Stripped down from her regular circus, P!nk delivered a vulnerable performance of her new single “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken.” Grammy debutant SZA lived up to her five nominations and charmed the audiences with “Broken Clocks.” New York native Lady Gaga performed a touching tribute to her late aunt by singing an updated ballad version of her song “Joanne,” before proudly stating “time’s up” and erupting into “Million Reasons,” which she performed with an electrifying zeal.
This year’s Grammys were the first music awards show since the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign began. While the music industry tried to show solidarity by wearing white roses in support of the sexual assault victims, it never matched the powerful focus that took place at the Golden Globes. Nevertheless, everything got serious when actress and singer Janelle Monáe got to the stage.
She called out the industry for not paying enough attention and introduced Kesha for a performance. Joined by Bebe Rexha, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Andra Day and Cyndi Lauper, Kesha was barely holding back her tears when performing “Praying,” a forceful survivor’s anthem that works as a soundtrack of the #MeToo movement. Kesha did not win any Grammys, losing to Ed Sheeran in two categories.
Following the performance, Cabello took center stage to deliver an inspiring address to the DREAMers, sharing her personal story of success as an immigrant from Cuba. Holding that immigrant note, the former Fifth Harmony member introduced the Irish rock band U2, that performed “Get Out of Your Own Way,” a song heavy with the topics of the American dream and freedom, which they performed on a boat with a view of the Statue of Liberty.
The performance did not work well with its introduction and instead, Cabello’s speech paralleled better with “Despacito,” the first Spanish song to be performed at the Grammys in nearly 30 years. A major radio breakthrough from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, the two notably substituted Justin Bieber with Puerto Rican actress Zuleyka Rivera, showing that this song is still a hit even without a white North American artist. More Latino vibes were served by DJ Khaled, who brought out Rihanna and Bryson Tiller for their summer hit, “Wild Thoughts.”
The night of music in New York City would not be complete without some Broadway swing. First, this year’s Tony-winning prodigy, Ben Platt, brought the house down with his exemplary rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein. If Platt’s rich riffing was not enough, the Grammys were in for a treat when the legendary Patti LuPone delivered a pearl-clutching tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber with “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita. Reprising her 1981 Grammy performance, the two-time Tony winner sang stunningly before striking Evita’s iconic pose.
The biggest upset of the night was a disappointingly timid job from the show’s host. After successfully hosting the Grammys last year, James Corden held back and looked like an adorable human version of Paddington, trapped between big egos and cringe worthy clichés. Even his MTA version of the viral Carpool Karaoke series with Sting and Shaggy felt too staged and uncomfortable. The two came back to perform a medley of “Englishman in New York” and “Don’t Make Me Wait,” which sounded pleasant, but was completely unnecessary. The show had better moments than this encore performance.