Grammys 2019: Female musicians "step up", Drake gets shut down

Grammys 2019: Female musicians

“I’m honoured to be nominated alongside so many female artists,” said Dua Lipa as she flew the flag for UK music by picking up the Best New Artist Grammy. “I guess this year we really stepped up…”

If last year’s Grammy Awards – when female artists were notable only by their absence from the winner’s podium and the big performance slots – was a setback, this was the payback. At times it seemed like a three-and-a-half hour apology for last year's errors, as female artists led the award-winners and positively dominated the performances.

That meant a ceremony that looked likely to be remembered for the people who didn’t perform – Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Childish Gambino – instead became talked about for those that did.

That aside, it was another up-and-down Grammys, where the cutting edge cosies up to the showbiz; the ceremony seems to go on forever yet still feels compelled to cut the most interesting speeches; and very few actual awards seem to get handed out. Music Week picks out the key moments…

THE FUTURE IS FEMALE

“Let the vagina have a monologue!” hollered Janelle Monae as she cavorted with saucy cyborgs during her showstopping performance of Dirty Computer. And, for once, the Grammys did. Female artists were everywhere to the point that, when dancers stormed the cage set during Travis Scott’s epic performance, many quipped that it was all the male stars seeking their moment in the sun. Not that they could complain: from Kacey Musgraves’ exquisite Rainbows and Brandi Carlile’s searing The Joke; to Cardi B’s Busby Berkeley-esque (well, Busby Berkeley-esque if Berkeley knew how to twerk) bounce through Money; via Camila Cabello’s opening big production number on Havana (can she start every awards ceremony ever, please?), female voices were heard loud and clear.

VOLUNTEERING AS TRIBUTES

The Grammys ruddy love a tribute. Even though they managed to miss some notable figures out of their list of musical figures who’d died in the last 12 months, they found room to pay homage to the living (Diana Ross, Dolly Parton) as well as the fallen (Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway). Indeed – despite an already stellar castlist of Musgraves, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Maren Morris and Little Big Town, Parton felt the need to crash the medley and effectively pay tribute to herself. And fair enough, she was very, very good at it, although that and Diana Ross wishing herself a very happy 75th birthday with a medley brought a whiff of Vegas to a show that was meant to be embracing the future. The unusual selection of Jennifer Lopez for a Motown medley, meanwhile, just left most people baffled.

NO HITS FOR THE BRITS

Dua Lipa aside, it was a tough night for UK music. Bring Me The Horizon lost out to St Vincent in the Best Rock Song category, a move that might have made sense had her song been even slightly rock. At least Ella Mai’s Boo’d Up triumphed in Best R&B Song – and she got to light up her face when host Alicia Keys’ dropped a snippet of the R&B banger into her covers set. Talking of whom…

THE KEYS, THE SECRET

Keys seemed a leftfield choice as host, especially when she began with a gushing monologue about “love”, “light” and “living”. But she recovered from there, using her star wattage to get Michelle flipping Obama to turn up and embracing her musicianly chops to keep things eternally positive and inclusive. Who else could sing Empire State Of Mind – a song about New York – and receive an ecstatic ovation from the Los Angeles crowd? She burst into song wherever possible, although spare a thought for those whose tunes she covered during her “songs I wish I’d written” section: after Keys’ rendition, most of the originals are going to sound pretty ropey.

COLLABORATION RATINGS

If there’s one thing the Grammys loves more than a tribute, it’s a leftfield collaboration. So St Vincent and Dua Lipa’s wonky Masseduction/One Kiss mash-up worked and Miley Cyrus and Shawn Mendes just about got away with it. Less successful was Post Malone’s brodown with Red Hot Chili Peppers, which seemed to mainly consist of Malone getting lost in a corridor and then strumming along while Flea threw himself around like a demented scoutmaster.

CUT SHORT

No one expected Drake to turn up to collect his Best Rap Song gong for God’s Plan so, when he did, it seemed like an endorsement of the Grammys. Except he then went on to diss the very concept of awards in an attempt to inspire the next generation of musicians. “If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending money to buy tickets to your shows, you don’t need this right here,” he said, gesturing to his prize. “You’ve already won.” Cue the Recording Academy’s wrap-up music kicking in. The Grammys later claimed they thought the speech was over, but the similarly shade-throwing Dua Lipa was also cut off. Meanwhile, the outgoing Recording Academy president’s valedictory section – which seemingly sought to recast Neil “Step up” Portnow as some sort of feminist freedom fighter – seemed to have no such restrictions. The good news? A changing of the guard is coming, and not a moment too soon…

* For the lowdown on the big Grammys winners, click here. For our pre-Grammy coverage, click here, here and here.

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