The trajectory of the night said it all. The 60th Grammy Awards opened Sunday with the promise of an explosive performance by apparent frontrunner Kendrick Lamar, punctuated by superstar cameos (U2, Dave Chappelle) and a heady cocktail of grit and visual imagination. The show closed with the completion of the least exciting possible sweep, as Bruno Mars — a gamely appealing pop star whose funky but lightweight jams peppered radio playlists all year — won Album Of The Year (for 24K Magic), Record Of The Year (for “24K Magic”) and Song Of The Year (for “That’s What I Like”).
Grammys gonna Grammy. That’s Takeaway #1.
#2: On a night of mostly muted performances — and, especially in the show’s first half, mostly muted activism — Kesha stood out. The singer’s 2017 career resurgence culminated in a raw and powerful performance of her hit ballad “Praying,” in which Kesha was flanked by the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello and Andra Day, not to mention backed by the Resistance Revival Chorus. Inspired by Kesha’s high-profile personal and legal battles over her allegations of sexual abuse, “Praying” provided the sort of powerhouse #MeToo anthem the evening otherwise lacked.
#3: Kesha provided a major highlight of the evening, but where the actual awards were concerned, it was an abysmal night for women. In the days leading up to Sunday night’s telecast, a study published by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative showed that in the past six years, more than 90 percent of Grammy nominees have been men — a statistic that’s come up a lot as the industry begins to grapple with sexual misconduct. Which didn’t make it a great night to see women win just one out of the Grammy telecast’s 10 awards (two if you count Rihanna’s featured spot in Kendrick Lamar’s “LOYALTY.”).
#4: It was a night of sweeps and shutouts. Chris Stapleton went 3-for-3, and Bruno Mars won all six Grammys for which he was nominated — seven if you count a win for engineering on 24K Magic. Meanwhile, Jay Z went 0-for-8, SZA went 0-for-5, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” went 0-for-3, and so on. The awards didn’t get spread out a whole lot, though Childish Gambino did manage to go 1-for-5 thanks to a win for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
#5: SZA’s five losses will sting for a while. With no offense intended to Alessia Cara — an engaging pop singer whose songs have brightened the airwaves for a few years now — her Best New Artist win over SZA was a travesty. SZA’s Ctrl offered up a fascinating, alluring re-envisioning of R&B, and it was packed with jams; this pick felt like the sort of Best New Artist misfire for which the Grammys used to be notorious.
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