Amid concerns from hip-hop artists about being too often shut out in top categories, rapper Childish Gambino won Grammy Awards Sunday evening for both song and record of the year for his hit “This is America,” while country songstress Kacey Musgraves earned album of the year honors for “Golden Hour.”
Musgraves won a total of four prizes during the 61st Grammy Awards, with “Golden Hour” also being named best country album. She also took home Grammys for best country solo performance for “Butterflies” and best country song — along with fellow songwriters Luke Laird and Shane McAnnally — for “Space Cowboy.”
“I never dreamed this record would be met with such love, such warmth, such positive,” she said during the event at Staples Center.
“I don’t even know who to thank,” she said when she won album of the year. “It was unbelievable to even be in a category with such gigantic albums.”
Gambino — the musical alter ego of actor Donald Glover — did not appear at the ceremony, an absence that had been rumored amid the discontent that had been expressed prior to the show by some hip-hop artists. Show producer Ken Erlich told the New York Times last week that Gambino and top nominees Kendrick Lamar and Drake had turned down offers to perform on the show.
“The fact of the matter is, we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world,” Ehrlich told the paper. “When they don’t take home the big prize, the regard of the (Recording Academy), and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community.”
Gambino indeed was a no-show at the ceremony. But in addition to his awards for record and song of the year, “This is America” also won Grammys for best rap/sung performance and best music video — giving him a total of four wins.
The record of the year award goes to the performer, while song of the year recognizes the songwriters. Gambino shared the song of the year prize with Ludwig Goransson.
Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar wasn’t spotted at the show. He had a leading eight nominations heading into the show, but collected only one — for best rap performance for “King’s Dead.”
Drake, however, did make an appearance, showing up on stage when his hit “God’s Plan” was named best rap song. Since the award honors the songwriters, Drake shared the honor with Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels and Noah Shebib.
But while accepting the award, Drake did not shy away from the discord between the Grammys and some in the hip-hop community.
“It’s like the first time in Grammy history where I am who I thought I was,” he said. “I definitely did not think I was winning anything.”
He went on to address young artists, saying they don’t need to win a Grammy to be a success.
“Know that we play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said. “It is not the NBA. This is a business where sometimes it is up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to say.
“… The point is, you’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown,” he said. “If there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here,” he said, holding up his Grammy Award. “You’ve already won.”
As Drake paused, the telecast went to commercial.
The prize for best rap album went to Cardi B for “Invasion of Privacy.” She was visibly shaken as she accepted the award.
“The nerves are so bad. Maybe I need to start smoking weed,” she said.
Among those she thanked was her 7-month-old daughter, noting that she was still working on the album when she found out she was pregnant. She said she told her husband — rapper Offset — she wanted to finish the album “so we can shoot these videos while I’m still not showing.”
H.E.R. won the Grammy for best R&B album for her self-titled release. As she accepted the award, she smiled and said, “It’s not even an album. It’s an E.P.”
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper won the Grammy for best pop duo/group performance for “Shallow,” the feature song from the film “A Star is Born.”
“I wish Bradley was here with me right now,” Gaga said as she accepted the award on behalf of the pair. “… Bradley, I loved singing this song with you. And if I don’t get another chance to say this, I just want to say I’m so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They’re so important. A lot of artists deal with that and we’ve got to take care of each other.”
The song also won the Grammy earlier Sunday for best song written for visual media. Gaga also won a pre-telecast Grammy for best pop solo performance for “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?).”
English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa was named best new artist — chosen from an eight-nominee field that included six women.
“I guess this year we’ve really stepped up,” she said in a poke at outgoing Recording Academy President Neil Portnow. Portnow came under fire last year amid criticism about the lack of female representation in top Grammy categories when he suggested that female performers need to “step up.”
Portnow has announced that he will step down this year at the end of his term. Sunday night’s ceremony included a video tribute to Portnow for his work as president of the academy, including mention of steps taken by the organization in recent years aimed at bolstering diversity throughout the industry.
He received a warm reception from the crowd when he took the stage, and he again preached the need for continued improvements in diversity and inclusion. And he referenced the criticism that has been leveled at him.
“This past year I’ve been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues,” Portnow said.
The Grammys this year expanded the field of nominees for the top awards from five to eight in an effort to bolster diversity.
Five of the eight nominees for album of the year were women, as were six of the eight nominees for best new artist. The Grammy ceremony also featured special tributes to three powerhouse women — Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and the late Aretha Franklin.
The Grammy ceremony had a strong female-oriented tone, starting with host Alicia Keys. And at the show’s onset, the star-studded crowd was brought to its feet when Keys welcomed to the stage Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith — and former first lady Michelle Obama in a surprise appearance.
“From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the who-run-the-world songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped tell my story,” she said. “… Music helps us share ourselves, our dignity, our sorrows, our hopes, our joys.”
One of the more emotional Grammy moments occurred during the pre-telecast portion of the awards ceremony, when Chris Cornell — who died by suicide in May 2017 — posthumously won the award for best rock performance for “When Bad Does Good.” His two youngest children, 14-year-old daughter Toni and 13-year-old son Christopher, accepted the award on behalf of their father.
Also among the award winners in the pre-telecast ceremony was former President Jimmy Carter, who won for best spoken-word album for “Faith — A Journey For All.” It was Carter’s third career win in the category, making him the biggest Grammy winner among former presidents. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both won twice in the category.
The Grammys recognized recordings released between Oct. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018.
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