Hey, remember last year, when everyone complained that there were barely any women on the Grammy Awards, and that deserving hip-hop artists kept getting snubbed?
What a difference a year makes. The 61st Annual Grammy Awards, held Sunday night in Los Angeles, were all about hip hop and women — and sometimes both.
Edgy country artist Kacey Musgraves was the night’s big winner, taking home four trophies, including the prestigious Album of the Year prize for Golden Hour. She also won Best Country Album, Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. In one of her many acceptance speeches, she thanked “all of the fans who have done nothing but spread positivity and love about this album…you really gave it wings.”
Meanwhile, Cardi B and Childish Gambino, the latter aka actor Donald Glover, made Grammy history with their wins. Childish Gambino’s politically charged #1 hit “This Is America” was named Record and Song of the Year — the first time a hip-hop track had ever won in those two categories. “This Is America” also won for Best Rap/Sung performance, and its galvanizing video was named Best Music Video. Gambino wasn’t on hand to accept his trophies.
Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy was named Best Rap Album, making her the only solo female to win in that category. The rapper was overcome by emotion at the podium, but still managed to joke, “The nerves are so bad, maybe I need to start smoking weed!”
Cardi then gave a memorable speech, specifically thanking her 7-month-old daughter, Kulture. She explained that wen she found out she was pregnant, it gave her the impetus she needed to finish her album and shoot the videos before she started showing. She also thanked her estranged husband, Offset, who was onstage with her, for encouraging her.
The night’s other big winners included Brandi Carlile, who won three trophies, and Lady Gaga, who also took home three: two for “Shallow” and one for her song “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?)” Accepting the award for Best Pop/Duo Group performance, a tearful Gaga thanked Bradley Cooper and her fans, and then spoke about the importance of mental health issues, especially in the music industry.
“If you see someone that’s hurting, don’t look away,” she said. “And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up into your head with you.”
Going into the show, host Alicia Keys said she felt that this year’s Grammys was “one billion percent” the year of the woman. Indeed, in addition to Cardi, Kacey, Brandi and Gaga, nearly every other winner or performer of the night was female, from R&B stars H.E.R. and Janelle Monae, Latinx stars Jennifer Lopez and Camila Cabello, rock star St. Vincent, and pop stars Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa. Even Michelle Obama put in an appearance.
Most of the star-studded Grammy “moments” were female-centric: There were tributes to Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross took center stage to wish a happy 75th birthday to herself with a performance. Even a Motown tribute was mostly performed by Jennifer Lopez.
Dua Lipa, who was named Best New Artist, even said in her acceptance speech, “I guess this year, we really stepped up.” It was a not-so-subtle diss of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who last year was publicly slammed for suggesting that women in the music industry needed to “step up.”
Unfortunately, the biggest female pop star in the world right now, Ariana Grande, declined to attend after feuding with the producers. Disappointing, considering that in ceremonies prior to the broadcast, she won her first Grammy: Best Pop Vocal Album, for Sweetener.
As for the men, there were performances by Post Malone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shawn Mendes and Travis Scott and, briefly, Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo, but the most notable male appearance came from Drake, who normally avoids award shows like the plague. He was on hand to accept his Grammy for Best Rap Song, for “God’s Plan,” and gave one of the most pointed speeches of the night.
Noting that awards are often decided by those who “might not understand” where hip-hop stars like him are coming from, the rapper continued, “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word. If you’re a hero from your hometown. If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows”
Gesturing to his Grammy, Drake added, “You don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
Fans were furious that Drake’s speech was seemingly cut short by a commercial, but backstage, it was explained that he was given the opportunity to continue afterward, but declined, saying he’d made his point.
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