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GRAMMYS 2018: What They Got Right, But Mostly What They Got Wrong

January 29, 2018


Sunday saw another awards show come and go with the 60th annual Grammy Awards. The performance-focused program presented nine of its eighty-four awards during the three and a half hour program with a majority of its airtime occupied by performances from nominees and various other artists.

The awards lauded diversity and addressed topics such as immigration, suicide, and #MeToo, with notable performances from Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and Kesha. However, the disparities between the lineup of moving, topical performances and the distribution of the night’s accolades were plain. The music industry may be taking steps in the right direction, but there is still plenty of room to grow. 


Host James Corden’s sophomore gig as Grammys host was characteristically mild, though at this point the “most diverse show with the white, straight, male host” shtick is overdue to be retired (or more so, the white, straight, male award show host is). The wide variety of performances the night hosted made for an exciting, if not over-saturated, night. Highlights of the night include DJ Khaled, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller; Childish Gambino; Elton John; John Batiste and Gary Clark Jr.; and Cardi B with Bruno Mars to sing their song "Finesse." 



The Grammys commenced with Kendrick Lamar returning to the Grammy stage with a trademark biting commentary from a black man in America, with interjections from Dave Chappelle and U2’s Bono and the Edge. Lady Gaga and later Kesha, introduced by Janelle Monáe, recognized the #MeToo movement. 

Despite these powerful, women-empowering ballads, the lack of representation from female artists was prevalent across the board; the vast majority of nominations went to male artists, from the top four categories -- best artists, and record, album, and song of the year -- to more niche categories like best Americana album or best classical instrumental solo. Of the nine awards presented during the main program, two went to women: Alessia Cara took home the Grammy for best new artist and Rihanna shared the Grammy for best rap/sung performance with Kendrick Lamar for their song “Loyalty.” off the DAMN. album.


Tangentially, the rejection of excellence in rap by the Recording Academy continued as rap artists Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and JAY-Z went home without any of the major awards they were nominated for. Instead, the Grammys continued to favor pop-fair, with R&B pop artist Bruno Mars sweeping with a 6-for-6 conquest. Consequently, no one seemed surprised when the rap nominee-dominated top categories snubbed the likes of JAY-Z, Kendrick, or SZA.



For a program which presented a diverse lineup of performers -- diversity of race, age, gender, and genre   -- the selection of nominees and subsequent winners did not reflect that same commitment to inclusion and representation. The disjuncture between appearance and content made for a clumsy night that was entertaining, at best. 


Were the Grammys perfect? No. Did anyone expect them to be? I’d hope not. Music’s biggest night attempted to engage with important issues but managed only to feel hopelessly stale. There was nothing exciting about the pseudo-political Hillary cameo, nothing revolutionary about the year's winners, and nothing exceptional about the over 210-minute long program. If the Academy pays any attention at all, next year will be yet another step -- of many -- in the right direction.

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