At the 60th Grammy Awards, Bruno Mars collected the prestigious album of the year for 24K Magic as well as song of the year for “That’s What I Like.” Kendrick Lamar dominated the rap field, shutting out SZA and Jay-Z. Alessia Cara took home best new artist in a highly contested group of nominees. Host James Corden kept energies high despite the rather expected, even boring, wins of the night while performances saved the show.
Kendrick Lamar kicked off the night, performing the song “XXX” from his award-winning album, Damn. Lamar, a talented and outspoken advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, brought the emotion, fear, and betrayal of police brutality to center stage. Lamar’s performance launched the rest of the night into a politically and emotionally charged event.
Following Lamar was Lady Gaga, performing hits off of her latest album, Joanne. Her heartfelt album sent audiences reeling with emotion and praise. Madison Square Garden seemed to fall silent as Gaga sat at the piano, hypnotized in what she and Mark Ronson had planned. The touching tribute to her father’s late sister is among the many reasons Gaga is adored and respected in the industry and pop culture. Her reminder of unconditional love and self-expression resonated with listeners, as all eyes were transfixed on the icon through the entire performance.
Sir Elton John and Miley Cyrus’s duet of “Tiny Dancer” captivated audiences as John announced plans to retire after a three-year farewell tour. John has been a staple representation of the LGBTQ community. His influence and support have spanned decades and continued to impact fans of all ages. After this upcoming tour, John will end his music career, much to the dismay of diehard followers. Despite this, his impact will remain known as a gifted musician and activist.
Later, in arguably one of the most emotionally charged performances of the night, singer Kesha sang her power ballad “Praying” from her album Rainbow. Kesha and a chorus of other female artists including Bebe Rexha, Cindi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, Camila Cabello, and Janelle Monáe dressed in all white in solidarity for those who survive sexual assault and abuse. The Time’s Up movement has engulfed much of the music industry, as more and more women are encouraged and empowered to speak out again sexual misconduct and abuse.
The performance was monumental for lead, Kesha, as she opens up about her past abuse and recovery that have spanned the past few years. The star has also been an active supporter of LGBT rights, as the 29-year-old herself identifies as bisexual. Fans are happy to see her thriving after an ugly legal battle against her abuser left many worried for her physical and mental health. The visual of strong, diverse women singing in unison was a moving way to show support for Kesha and all those who struggle with assault, as more and more victims speak out. While there is much debate on the night’s winners and subsequent losers, it was most memorable for its elevated understanding and addressing of social movements that are at the forefront of much of the country’s mind.
Nevertheless, the night was problematic for the predictable Bruno Mars victory, while SZA was nominated in five categories, and lost in every one. Many believe that results were unsurprising and biased. There was a noticeable lack of women presented with awards, and even fewer women of color. This is certainly not the first time that minority women have been snubbed of their Grammys. Last year, Beyonce’s Lemonade shockingly lost to Adele, causing an uproar and debate about race relations in the music industry. Despite the performative social awareness, it is evident that there is much work to be done to actually see equality and recognition for artists other than the typical Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift.