The Grammy Awards ceremony lasted over three and a half hours and was rich in show-stopping live performances and spoken words from the night’s big winners. Here are a few takeaways from the 59th Grammys…
Adele vs. Beyoncé: 5-2
The two artists were competing in three of the top categories: Album, Record and Song Of The Year. And Adele got all three, becoming the first artists to ever win these three categories twice in a row. Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost to Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé got home with Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video for Formation. Adele paid tribute to Beyoncé but not giving her an important award could prove to be contentious for the Recording Academy, which could be seen as snubbing Queen Bey and out of touch with contemporary sounds. The difference between the two artists was also notable during their respective live performances: Adele was on her own on stage when she kicked off the Grammys with Hello, while Beyoncé was surrounded by a group of women in her ode to motherhood. One consolation for Beyoncé is that her sister Solange took the R&B Performance Grammy for Cranes in the Sky.
Bowie, at last!
David Bowie may have received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2006, but only ever won one Grammy in a minor category (Best Video, Short Form in 1984). The Academy made up for this absence by bestowing several awards to the British artist who died last year: Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance for Blackstar, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Recording Package, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Jonathan Barnbrook, the art director behind the Blackstar visual, noted “Bowie had this very, very rare quality of getting people to produce their best work in a beautiful and charming way”.
New talent was recognised
The Grammys have often been criticised for celebrating artists who were past their prime to the detriment of new generations of artists. This year saw a fine posse of young artists going home with a nod, from Chance The Rapper (Best Rap Performance, Best New Artist) to Sturgill Simpson, whose blend of country meets Americana earned him the Grammy for Best Country Album. Other relative newcomers who received an award include Australia's Flume in the category Dance/Electronic Album, beating such veterans as Jean Michel Jarre and Underworld; the UK's Jacob Collier who took home two gongs (Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella for You And I and Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for Flintstones); country act Maren Morris (Best Country Solo Performance); The Chainsmokers in the Dance Recording category; and new Folk sensation Sarah Jarosz was celebrated for Best Folk Album and American Roots Performance for House of Mercy.
It was not politics as usual
The presence of Donald Trump in the White House has energised many artists to speak out about politics, either in a subtle way, like the duo Jesse & Joy stating that they were “so proud to be Mexican-American” to not so subtle comedian Margaret Cho, host of the Grammy Premiere show, who said that if she had to give an acceptance speech it would be “Fuck you Donald Trump!”
Barely 10 minutes into the show, Jennifer Lopez came on stage to present an award but before that said: “At this particular point in history, our voices are needed more than ever. As Toni Morrison once said, this is precisely the time when artists go to work.” Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson, walked on stage to say that she felt the excitement in the room, adding: “We can really use this excitement at a pipeline protest” in reference to the North Dakota pipeline plans.
Katy Perry also delivered her message by wearing an armband on which was written “Resist” and finished her song with a projection of the Constitution of the United States. The most politically-charged performance was Anderson .Paak and A Tribe Called Quest's We The People, attacking the policies of “President Agent Orange” while welcoming on stage representatives from different immigrant communities, and ending the song shouting “Resist, Resist, Resist”.
Tributes to the departed
2017 saw many a music legend pass away and the Recording Academy recognised several of them through tributes, starting with Judy Collins playing Leonard Cohen's Suzanne during the Grammy Premiere ceremony. Other tributes celebrated the musical talent of Prince (The Time and Bruno Mars, fully dressed with a Prince outfit, with a kick-ass version of Let's Go Crazy) and George Michael (Adele, who had to stop and re-start her performance of Fastlove, because she felt she was not properly paying homage to Michael). A video at the end of the show paid tribute to a long list of artists and industry executives who departed in 2016.
British talent shines
Although 2016 was not a year during which British artists dominated the US charts, like in previous years, but it was nonetheless a good harvest for the Brits, thanks mostly to Adele and Bowie. It is worth noting that the young Jacob Collier took two awards, and dedicated them to the “community of bedroom artist who are creating on their own, and will pull music forward.” And there was also a group of lads from Liverpool who continued to make Grammy history: The Beatles, who got an award for for Best Music Film for Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, the Touring Years.
Sometimes it takes time to win...
Heavy metal band Megadeth picked up their first Grammy (Best Metal Performance for Dystopia) after a dozen nominations, which made band leader Dave Mustaine quip on Twitter: “Finally!”
For all the big Grammys winners, click here.