How good might a night of entertainment be when your opening act is Adele? Well, in the case of the the 59th Grammy Awards, mighty good indeed. Viewers collectively shared an ethereal Last Supper with Beyonce and her crazy chair, a peek over the fence into a mirrored garden with Katy Perry, and a stage dive from last week’s Super Bowl entertainer Lady Gaga. All in all it was a politically charged, high energy event hampered slightly by a poor host, that highlighted women and from an award’s perspective pushed the music industry into the modern era of what constitutes an eligible artist.
a night of female empowerment, statements and startling performances in spite of James Corden’s awkward interruptions and attempt at comedy.
The night had been billed as a battle for Album of the Year between Adele and Beyonce (won by Adele) but it ended up being a celebration of all women, as they managed to take over the only major awards show that doesn’t separate categories by sex for the night. Adele, who has had back to back Grammy performances foiled, managed to open the show with a flawless reading of her winning single “Hello.” It set the stage for a night of female empowerment, political statements and startling performances in spite of James Corden’s awkward interruptions and attempt at comedy.
Years ago the Grammy’s telecast stopped being about the awards themselves and much more about the performances and once again, the night didn’t disappoint. Love the acts or not, it was hard to look away. Beyoncé, bless her pregnant soul, was exquisite in biblical garb with a graceful performance that seemed to steal the night with her lamentations on God, race and the female mystique until others addressed equal concerns with similar pizazz. From Katy Perry’s duet with Skip Marley (what another Marley?) that transformed a glass picket fence into the United States Constitution to Maren Morris and Alicia Keyes brilliant duet, girl power was in full force.
Perhaps the one performance that will have fans split was Lady Gaga’s rocking with Metallica. I found her dance moves and vocals an even match for one of heavy metal’s most iconic acts; however, the full effect was spoiled by an inexcusable microphone malfunction destroying the new Vail Valley resident James Hetfield’s vocals. Hetfield wasn’t alone with break downs, as Adele’s tribute to George Michael was marred by her own mishap this year. When she missed a critical moment of the song “Fast Love,” she decided to start all over again because she couldn’t “mess this up for him.”
However, It wasn’t just the ladies who were making a difference. In spite of Adele’s safe bet wins from the Academy, it was a night that proved the old guard might be bending as Chance The Rapper became the first independent artist ever to not just be nominated, but to win a golden gramophone. Chance’s “Coloring Book” won Best Rap Performance in addition to him getting the nod for Best New Artist. What makes his win significant was the fact that the Chicagoan didn’t release or sell a physical album. His rap essay on his life was only available as an on line stream for free. Like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” which also was initially released on line and as a video album by herself, Chance’s win opens the doors to artists’ independence and freedom from the need to be on a major record label.
Music’s biggest night also had some powerful performances from the men. In an evening full of political statements, one of the more provocative ones came from A Tribe Called Quest and their in your face testament to inclusion slamming the President’s recent actions. Meanwhile the Blues appeared alive and well as Gary Clark Jr’s electrifying performance with the under appreciated William Bell enthralled. And not to be outdone was the legendary and ageless Morris Day and The Time’s fitting tribute to Prince.
In the end, the Gammy’s continue to push the envelop of performance art by highlighting the creative geniuses of the music world, who make their statements in symbols and song. Eyes pop at the dramatic effects and Twitter feeds explode with OMGs and gifs. It’s a night for music to be celebrated as the universal language and on this special evening it was appropriately a chance to celebrate the women who make it as well.