Grammys 2019: Many deserving artists won top honours — but what about the music?

Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri

Feb 11, 2019 15:11:26 IST

Eminem called it last year in his album Kamikaze. While he was ironically nominated in this year’s awards for his Grammy-dissing song 'Lucky You', he rapped in another song — 'Fall' — from the same album:

Then tell the Grammys to go and fuck themselves,
They suck the blood from all the biggest artists like some leeches,
So they nominate ‘em, get ‘em there, get a name to MC the show,
Every parasite needs a host,
Then give Album of the Year to somebody that no one’s ever even heard of

Really? Kacey Musgraves for Album of the Year? Nothing spells “overcompensation” better than the Grammys caught on the backfoot. Make no mistake, Musgraves is a very talented singer whose Golden Hour won Best Country Album earlier in the evening. But was she the overarching musical talent of the year? Far from it. She was up against the likes of Cardi B, Brandi Carlile, Drake, HER, Janelle Monae, Post Malone and the Kendrick Lamar-helmed album from the movie Black Panther. Honestly, wakanda nonsense is this?

Grammys 2019: Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Lady Gaga bag top honours; see full list of winners

But then, this is the Grammys. Possibly the most boring awards show on the planet where one half of the nominees are protesting either the other half, or the recording academy that confers said awards. Political, social, and occasionally musical scores are settled or stoked at the Grammys. Sure, art imitates life, and the Grammys are just a canvas of controversies.

I wrote about it last year and I thought I wouldn’t have any optic muscles left to roll my eyeballs. I was wrong.

Its troubled history with representing non-white, non-male, non-pop/rock artists, culminated in some dubious decisions at last year’s Grammys. So, in a desperate bid to compensate for generations of slighted deserving candidates (and not white men singing easy listening, overly marketed tunes), Grammy Awards 2019 packed enough female following through performers, presenters and winners, to last them the year. As if to prove their point, the producers even cut short Drake’s speech (albeit inadvertently) in some kind of karmic retribution for all those times women have been cut short by men. (Just kidding. They didn’t need to cut short Drake to wear their oestrogen on their sleeves.)

 Grammys 2019: Many deserving artists won top honours — but what about the music?

Kacey Musgraves wins Album Of The Year at the 2019 Grammy Awards. REUTERS

Alicia Keys hosted the evening in a rather Alicia Keys manner. Subdued to the point of being a monotone while sashaying around the stage, she made us forget that she’s actually a hugely talented, 15-time Grammy winner as she implored her sisters from the industry. She came into her element each time she had to perform; be it with Jennifer Lopez in the Motown tribute or while stunning with a two-piano medley of popular hits. But as a host, she seemed like a librarian who actually wanted to be in a blues bar.

That said, not every woman who took to the stage was dull, or the recording academy’s form of compensation. Musically, there has been enough talent that produced work in 2018 that the Grammys didn’t need to play the gender card. From Cardi B becoming the first female solo rapper to win Best Rap Album for her immensely successful Invasion of Privacy (Nicki Minaj stan memes will be the order of the day), to HER and Ariana Grande picking Best R&B and Best Pop Vocal albums of the year respectively for HER and Sweetener, women winners rightfully dominated the awards.

If it was a night that recognised achievements in music, it was also one that showcased some of the best talents on stage. So we had a power-packed posse of singers paying tribute to Dolly Parton, there was Janelle Monae channeling her mentor — Prince, Camila Cabello recreating 'Havana' on stage and making it the only instance Ricky Martin and his bon-bon were nothing but a sideshow. Lady Gaga gave a Lady Gaga treatment to her sublime hit 'Shallow' from the film A Star is Born, Chloe x Halle harmonised 'Where is the Love' and St Vincent collaborated with Dua Lipa for a medley of 'Masseduction' and 'One Kiss'. Diana Ross brought in her 75th birthday a month early with the Grammys.

On a night with an overwhelmingly female presence on stage, the likes of Ricky Martin and Shawn Mendes were reduced to side shows. And I have got to admit, I didn’t know what that felt like. Is this what it feels like for women artists when they’re overlooked year after year for someone who might just be less deserving? If so, then I’m all for it. Especially because I watched one of the most tepid, yawn-inducing, bass-riff neutering performances by a band I love so much — Red Hot Chili Peppers. So much so that they actually looked rather out of place, and perhaps, even out-dated. This does not do much for a genre already being rapidly written off in favour of more populist choices from hip-hop, rap and R&B.

The Grammys have been taken to the cleaners for ignoring the music of these genres as well as artists of colour. Despite their falling out with the academy, both Ariana Grande and Childish Gambino won awards, with the latter picking up the coveted Record of the Year and Song of the Year for 'This is America'.

Some artist or the other usually has an axe to grind with the academy but for its tone-deaf treatment of women artists last year, the Grammys this year stepped up with 15 artists being nominated across the four major categories: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist.

If Hillary Clinton was the political quotient last year, this year it was former First Lady and forever rockstar Michelle Obama joining supergroup Jada Pinkett-Smith, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga to talk about what music means to them and the life lessons they’ve learnt from it. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s Democrat representative would be the feisty Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to talk about minorities and music, or some such.

A lot of very deserving women across race and ethnicities were honoured tonight. Some of them gave 2018 an incredible soundtrack. But now can we just get on with the music?

Updated Date: Feb 11, 2019 15:11:26 IST